OCIC’s Katherine Adams: Business is her business

Mar 26, 2024 | Business | 0 comments

Katherine Adams talks with students in the Skilled Trades Academy, an initiative of the Business Advisory Council. (Submitted photo)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

Katherine Adams brought over two decades of diverse professional experience to Ottawa County Improvement Corporation, where her work impacts students, employees and businesses throughout the county. (Submitted photo)

Katherine Adams says all roads lead to craziness. The road that brought her to the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation (OCIC), where she works as the Manager of Workforce and Career Exploration, took many unexpected turns and detours in the last two decades. But at each bend in the road and every side street, she picked up a new skill that equipped her for her current mission: helping students prepare for sustainable careers and helping provide foundational support to the local business world.

The end of this road, she discovered, wasn’t crazy after all.

At OCIC, Adams oversees Business Advisory Council initiatives, which include the Skilled Trades Academy and the STNA Program, and she heads the Ottawa County Childcare Initiative, which is tasked with expanding childcare accessibility in the county.

Adams was working in retail in the early 2000s when she gave birth to her son. The busyness of the retail world wasn’t creating the atmosphere she wanted as a new mother, so she stepped away from her career.

“A bazillion years ago, I was working in retail, and I wanted to find a better way to raise my son,” she said. “So I became a stay-at-home-mom.”

When she was ready to reenter the workforce, the business world had changed, and she realized her best option was to get a college degree. She returned to school to obtain a business degree and began working for a nonprofit, where she started an afterschool program for middle and high school students. The program offered the youths mentorship, connection, direction “and the opportunity to engage in the community in a way they would not have otherwise had,” she said.

At the same time, she refocused her goals and became a substitute teacher while working towards a master’s degree in criminal justice. She hoped to join the FBI.

“I discovered I was too old to be hired by the FBI, so I set that dream aside,” she said.

Instead, she accepted work teaching for Sandusky City Schools and eventually opened a business offering wraparound services in Ottawa County. Wraparound services are focused on improving the lives of children in vulnerable circumstances by surrounding them with resources from multiple agencies. Through her business, Adams became the very first wraparound coordinator in Ottawa County.

“Then COVID happened, and everything changed,” she said. “I had the opportunity to get into adult education, and that’s where I started making connections with people I hadn’t seen in a while. Many of them told me I needed to check out OCIC. They said I’d be a good fit there.”

Good fit doesn’t aptly describe the impact Adams has on the community through her work at OCIC. She has pulled together years of working down a winding road of career experience to offer an umbrella of skills and abilities to the students, businesses and employees she serves. Her professional past gives her a wide-angle view on local workforce needs that allows her to help students create their own professional futures.

“I don’t think that ten years ago I would have had everything I needed to do this job well,” she said.

Now, she creates programs that equip students for future careers, connects students with local employers, and supports employees so they can retain their jobs.

“I love creating programs and getting people to come to the table to share that passion,” she said. “I love creating opportunities for businesses and students to connect in meaningful ways.”

In the end, she is helping local youths discover fulfilling careers close to home and supporting a sustainable foundation where county businesses can thrive.
“It feels pretty amazing to be able to celebrate the success our students have and know we’re not only doing good for our students but for our community as a whole,” Adams said. “We’re developing students who can support what our community is and what it does.”

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