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First Lady highlights Columbus State’s role in regional engineering technology career access

Campus News | Monday, October 16, 2023

Dr. Jill Biden highlights variety of education options for high-tech production jobs during panel discussion presenting Columbus State students, graduate experiences to local high school seniors

First Lady Jill Biden came back to Columbus Friday, Oct. 13 to speak before local high school seniors about access to new engineering technology careers emerging here and in other parts of the country.

Highlighting success stories from Columbus State’s engineering technology education programs, First Lady Jill Biden said the college and its partners are creating many opportunities for central Ohio residents to land good jobs in in-demand careers.

Dr. Biden returned to Columbus Oct. 13 – her second visit to the region in four months – to hear updates about the Columbus Workforce Hub and spotlight the varied education paths to careers in high-growth industries such as semiconductors, electric vehicles and biotechnology.

“I’m here to tell you that there just isn’t one pathway to success,” Biden said before a panel discussion that featured four current and former Columbus State students along with a journeyman in the construction trades. “My husband, President Biden's administration, is working along with your Mayor Ginther, Columbus State Community College, and high school administrators and other leaders to make sure that students like you get the skills you need for those jobs.”

Jill Biden and VIPs

First Lady Jill Biden meets with key Columbus education leaders in Columbus City Schools’s Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center career skills training space. Pictured left to right are: Dr. Milton Ruffin, Fort Hayes principal; Dr. Rebecca Butler, Columbus State executive vice president; Columbus City Council President Shannon G. Hardin; Dr. Biden; Mike Knisley, secretary-treasurer of the Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council; and Dr. Angela Chapman, Columbus City Schools superintendent.

Biden spoke to an audience of high school seniors at Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, part of the Columbus City Schools district.

“We’re already seeing results,” she said, citing Columbus State’s specialized short-term semiconductor and biomanufacturing education programs, as well as two-year degrees that transfer into engineering bachelor’s degrees. She also highlighted the Columbus Promise program, a community pilot which has doubled the number of Columbus City Schools graduates enrolling at the college by offering tuition-free access.

“I can’t tell you just how much excited I am for the future,” said Mitchell Webb, a Columbus State student who is taking the first two classes in the college’s semiconductor technician certificate program, which will be offered in full in spring semester. “There’s so many opportunities, not just with Intel but other companies — other places that work with integrated circuits.”

Webb graduated from Gahanna Lincoln High School in 2019 and attended a four-year university before learning of Columbus State’s semiconductor program, which was developed in partnership with Intel and Ohio’s 22 other community colleges. Intel is investing $20 billion to build two chip factories – the first of up to eight semiconductor “fabs” planned in Central Ohio.

Dianna Gordon took advantage of a Columbus State biotechnology bootcamp to explore options for re-entering the workforce after eight years as a stay-at-home mom. That led to an apprenticeship with Amgen Ohio, which is paying her and covering the cost of classes at Columbus State that will prepare her for a technician role at the company’s $365 million New Albany plant, which is expected to begin production in 2024.

“Overall, this opportunity has been amazing,” she said. “This apprenticeship provided that training, that education, and that experience that’s really going to jumpstart my career.”

Like Gordon, Brianna Bell used an earn-and-learn opportunity to help pay for her Columbus State education and gain valuable experience. Bell graduated from Columbus State in 2022 and is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree in electro-mechanical engineering from Miami University — all while continuing to work at Niagara Bottling, a job that began through the college’s Modern Manufacturing Work Study Program.

Panel discussion with Jill Biden

Dr. Biden engages with a panel of Columbus State students and graduates sharing their personal connections to engineering technology education with Columbus City Schools Fort Hayes seniors. Pictured left to right are: Dianna Gordon, an Amgen apprentice employee enrolled in Columbus State coursework as part of on-the-job training; Brianna Bell, a Columbus State graduate and current Miami University Electrical Engineering student employed as an engineering technician; First Lady Biden; Chance England, a Columbus Promise Scholar at Columbus State majoring in electro-mechanical engineering technology; and Mitchell Webb, another Columbus State EMET student.

“There is so much growth here in Columbus, Ohio — central Ohio,” she told the Fort Hayes students. “If I was a student in your seats now, I think I would be so excited about what's to come, knowing that there is so many options for me when I graduate.”

Chance England, who graduated from Northland High School last spring, says he didn’t initially expect to go to college. Then his I Know I Can advisor told him about the Columbus Promise program, which provides up to six semesters of tuition and fees; a $500 stipend each semester for books and other expenses; and dedicated academic support.

“Columbus Promise has allowed me to pursue a higher education that I didn’t think was possible up till a couple months ago, honestly,” England said. “I now have a steady path to become an electrical electro-mechanical engineer.”

Before the panel, the First Lady met with Columbus State Executive Vice President Rebecca Butler, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, Columbus City Schools Superintendent Angela Chapman and Mike Knisley, secretary-treasurer of the Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council, to learn more about central Ohio’s workforce development efforts.

The First Lady, a longtime community college professor, concluded the panel by encouraging students to pursue the right opportunity for them.

“All of these speakers here have found a different path, a different way. There’s so many things that you can go into,” Biden said. “I wish you all good luck and I hope you find really the job of your dreams.”

Learn more

Columbus State and engineering technology industry partners are holding a career awareness event for area residents interested in careers in the field from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18. Learn more at

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