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Rhodes graduates told learning is not over

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Director of Workforce Transformation Ryan Burgess was the keynote speaker at Saturday’s Rhodes State College commencement ceremony held at Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center in Lima.


Richard Parrish | The Lima News

LIMA — As the director of the governor’s office of workforce transformation, Ryan Burgess had some wise words Saturday for the 2017 Spring Semester graduating class of Rhodes State College.

“As we enter into the digital revolution, the opportunities that are going to exist because of technology and automation, we have to be prepared for that,” Burgess said. “That is what Rhodes State is doing. The collaborations they have with the business community is going to become even more vital in an age where there is going to be constant fluctuation in our workforce and jobs and skills that we need.”

Burgess said Rhodes State is dedicated to aligning the education needed in the workforce to provide businesses with the skilled employees needed. He said it’s important for the academic world to continue to talk with the corporate world so everyone is on the same page.

Burgess also expects an increase in opportunities for young people as the baby boomers retire.

“Our challenge is to make sure our young people have the skills and competencies that business are looking for,” he said.

Ohio has about 150,000 jobs, on any given day, listed at Ohio Means Jobs that pay more than $50,000 a year, he said.

“There are ample job opportunities across the state,” Burgess said. “Especially this part of the state there is a lot of job opportunities.”

Health care, which more than half those graduating Saturday from Rhodes will earned a degree in, will have great opportunities. Nursing, for example, is always a field that is in high demand, Burgess said.

The generation graduating today also is more technologically savvy than generations before, he said.

“This generation has grown up with smartphones, iPhones, they are comfortable with them. It’s going to create a lot of opportunities for them,” Burgess said. “They are well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities.”

Burgess also told the graduates even though they are graduating from college their learning is far from over and in many ways just beginning.

“It’s a chapter in a life of continuous learning,” he said. “You’re going to have to continually learn new skills, new competencies, to make sure your skills remains sharp for the jobs that are always going to be changing.”

Burgess was honored to come to Rhodes to deliver the commencement speech. He said Rhodes has a lot going including the development underway across the street from the Civic Center in downtown Lima where the commencement ceremony was held.

Eric Fitzwater, of Continental, graduated with an associate degree in respiratory care. The degree will allow her to work in a hospital or bring care into people’s homes to take care of people’s lungs from newborns to people near the end of their lives.

“I am currently looking for a job and I have to take boards,” the 21-year-old Fitzwater said. “This is kind of a reality check. I’ve been doing school every day out of high school for three years and working two jobs. Now I’m going to be looking for my niche.”

There were 274 students graduating from Rhodes on Saturday, with five different types of associate degrees. Health science degrees represent more than half those graduating, said Rhodes spokeswoman Sandy Piehl.

“A lot of our graduates will be going into the workforce,” Piehl said.

Kiana Warnement, of Continental, graduated with an associate degree in respiratory care. She’s already found a job thanks to an internship she had.

“I work at St. Rita’s now so I’m going to continue working there,” Warnement said. “I was working as a student and that definitely helped me get my foot in the door and get a position after I graduate.”

The 21-year-old Warnement said she is ready to start the next chapter in her life.

“It’s a huge relief. It felt like it would never come. Now it’s here and I’m excited,” she said. “I’m ready to be done with school.”

Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.

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