Honda’s Approach to Bridging the Gap Between Technical Education and Workforce in Ohio

Growing up, Scot McLemore developed an interest in technology, innovation, and inventions, which led him to study Engineering Technology at Purdue University and then on to a 28-year career at Honda Motor Company.

Scot was the first in his immediate family to attend college and when met with the challenge of finding his own pathway, he gravitated toward technology and engineering. His education led to a career at Honda, the automaker that produces one in 10 cars in the U.S. and employs almost 15,000 workers in the Buckeye State today. While working at Honda, Scot recognized an opportunity to transform traditional pathways for potential employees that started with a radical idea: identify career options that don’t necessarily require a 4-year degree beginning with engaging middle and high school students and then educating them on available nontraditional pathways, such as certifications and 2-year degrees. Scot’s theory was that helping parents and counselors understand potential careers could radically change how students see their futures and success.

“It’s easy to get caught up in defining success as graduating from high school and then earning a degree at a four-year college…But, I’m interested in how we can shift the conversation from what traditional ‘perceived’ success looks likes like to how we provide opportunities for everyone to be successful contributors to society – and ultimately have a great lifestyle of their own.”

Scot’s pursuit of this idea led Honda’s decision to start a program with Columbus State Community College, offering students a two-year technical degree while working as a student technician in an advanced manufacturing environment. After their second semester, students work three days a week at Honda earning a salary while continuing coursework two days a week at Columbus State. Upon graduation, Honda plans to hire them full-time into technician roles, starting at $55,000 to $60,000 a year not including overtime and benefits.

“A lot of the discussion needs to center on raising awareness for parents to understand that there are pathways to a successful life that don’t require a four-year degree. For example, a student can go to a career tech center and earn credentials and then take that learning and move into a career or pursue a two-year degree before starting their own career. If desired, they still have the opportunity to  pursue additional education that could lead to a Bachelor’s degree or beyond.”

Honda is recasting a vision for career opportunities through partnership with industry, students, parents, and educators. By forging these partnerships, students benefit through reduced college tuition costs and a guaranteed salary position that can support their family. This program is making career success in fields like engineering and manufacturing a reality for students without requiring a 4-year degree in fields. This alternative model is another example of how students can achieve success and tap into good-paying careers through nontraditional pathways.

Scot’s work is helping to redefine what success looks like for students and workers in Ohio.