Workforce Development Programs Connect the Dots Between Companies and Employees
26 Nov, 2018By: Jennifer Alten
What is workforce development?
Workforce Central, a workforce development program in Pierce County Washington, offers a description that hits the bulleye. “Employers need to hire the right workers, and workers need to build the right skillsets to get hired. Workforce development happens when businesses, community leaders and other groups take specific actions to connect the dots between job seekers, training programs and employers.”
Learn how workforce development is driving strong economic growth around the country by helping companies and their employees thrive.
Attracting New Business and Helping Current Business Succeed
Just south of the Tacoma border, the city of Lakewood is strategically located along the Interstate 5 corridor. It’s a short drive from Seattle and Olympia and a hub for activity at the Ports of Tacoma, Olympia and Seattle. With so much business activity, Lakewood relies on robust workforce development programs to meet the needs of local industry.
“Workforce development programs definitely have an influence on whether our businesses are able to thrive in our area,” said Becky Newton, economic development manager at the City of Lakewood. “Workforce is a key element and one that is always brought up in business retention visits.”
Employers are taking advantage of a number of workforce development and training programs such as the one offered by Workforce Central. The program partners with ResCare Workforce Services to strengthen Pierce County’s economy by identifying skill gaps between job seekers and employment opportunities and connecting workforce development partners into a cohesive, collaborative network.
Another strong promoter of workforce training programs is Clover Park Technical College (CPTC), a community college located in Lakewood. The college offers more than 40 programs in areas such as aerospace, advanced manufacturing, health sciences, human services and trades. Boeing will take advantage of the new CPTC Advanced Manufacturing Program coming online in 2019.
Infobox, a Silicon Valley-based network control and security company, is an example of a company connected to the area’s workforce development programs. The company has nearly doubled its employee count from its initial hiring phase and is planning to expand its headcount to as much as 150 people by the end of 2018.
Taking a Creative Approach to Filling Jobs – While Benefiting the Community
Madisonville/Hopkins County Kentucky
In western Kentucky, Hopkins County is a community of 50,000 people – and an unemployment hovering around 4 percent, considered by economists a full employment. By being located on I-69, a new interstate, the region is seeing new companies and expansions – and is faced with the challenge of helping these businesses attract the workers they need to operate and thrive.
To fill these jobs, “we try to take a unique approach,” said Ray Hagerman, president of the Madisonville-Hopkins Economic Development Corp.
One approach is a pilot program at the Hopkins County Jail that is providing inmates with job training so that they can build positive futures upon their release. Kentucky INSINC, which stands for “Inmates Need Skills in New Careers,” is a partnership between the jail and the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corp.’s Kentucky Movers and Makers. It’s funded by a $100K grant from the USDA Office of Rural Development. The program allows incarcerated volunteers to become certified in basic welding through a 30-hour course of instruction. The program is looking to expand into areas like masonry and electrical work.
Not only does the program reduce recidivism by up to 70 percent, it also allows the instructors, who are frequently the one hiring for these positions at their companies, to evaluate and recruit these students upon their release.
In a similar vein, the region is also working with several drug rehab programs to train those who have completed rehab, going as far as to offer dental work to help recovering addicts lower the barriers to employment. Several local companies have designated themselves as “Second Chance Employers” to convey that they are willing to hire former drug users.
“These programs are practical and real. It’s how our community has banded together to create a workforce out of pools of people who have been ignored,” said Hagerman.
To make it easier for companies to connect jobs and candidates, the Madisonville-Hopkins EDC recently launched a job portal called www.hopkinscokyjobs.com.
“Our employers kept saying, ‘where can post my jobs?’ They were looking for a single website to do this, said Hagerman. “In one hour, we had 25 companies posting jobs and 185 people signed up for e-mails about new jobs.”
A Strong Workforce is the Key to Its Success
Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, Alexandria, Louisiana
In central Louisiana, the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA) focuses on advancing knowledge and skill levels through a variety of workforce development programs. This is key to the region’s success.
Ten parishes make up CLEDA and all are certified as ACT® Work Ready Communities. Communities like CLEDA’s achieve work-ready status by issuing National Career Readiness Certificates (NCRC), a tool to document the skill level of workers. Prospective employees find this training at all the area’s high schools and the Central Louisiana Technical Community College campuses. Central Louisiana residents have earned more than 11,300 NCRC certificates and nearly 300 employers in the region recognize the credential.
“ACT® Work Ready Communities provide an economic advantage for all parishes, as it helps to increase the documented work ready skills of our workforce,” said Sondra C. Redmon, director of workforce development at the Central Louisiana Economic Development.
Another program training workers is the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program offered by Northwestern State University and Central Louisiana Technical Community College, in conjunction with area manufacturers. This hands-on learning program allows students to take classes and work part-time in sponsoring manufacturing facilities. The curriculum teaches courses in areas such as electricity, fluid power, mechanics, fabrication and troubleshooting, while also focusing on self-development skills and problem solving.
“They work part-time and they study part-time,” said Randy Caskey, an instructor in the program. “Manufacturers are all over this because factories are more and more automated. Somebody has to work on that automation. Companies have realized they have to reach back and create their own skilled workforce. Technology changes constantly and we need workers who can keep up.”
To reach out to veterans and people transitioning out the military, Ft. Polk, an Army base in Vernon Parish, partnered with Construction Company McDermott and Central Louisiana Technical Community College to offer a 16-week course industrial electricians program. Part of the Soldier-For-Life Transition Assistance Program, this program currently offers courses specifically for pipefitting and industrial electricians and is looking to expand into welding and truck driving.
Developing the Workforce from a Young Age
In north central Ohio’s Sandusky County, Clyde is a small city with opportunities. It is home Whirlpool’s largest washing machine factory in the world and joined by other companies that support this robust supply chain.
To develop the workforce to support this thriving industry, Clydescope, Clyde’s economic development corporation and the Sandusky County EDC’s start young.
“Our high school has a terrific program called Career Readiness that starts training ninth graders to transition into the work place,” said Bill Brown, director of Clydescope EDC. “Their program helps them develop resumes and what the employer is looking for in terms of quality and dedicated individuals.”
Many of Clyde’s businesses are hiring students from Terra State College’s apprentice programs as well as offering internships to local high school students.
“Whirlpool is an example of a company hiring apprentices. The company pays their college tuitions and the individual ends up with a good job that pays very well,” said Brown.
Another program that targets young high schoolers is the THINK Manufacturing Showcase, held at Terra State Community College and hosted by the Sandusky County EDC. Ninth grade students are exposed to areas such as manufacturing career pathways, machining trades/blueprint reading and mechanical/electrical trades, along with necessary skills such as teamwork, problem solving and troubleshooting.
“I think it’s important to start kids early, and expose them to what job opportunities are out there in the county,” said Beth Hannam, Sandusky County economic development director. “Even if the students are not going into this field, it is good to show them the various pathways that exist.”
A Focus on People Development
Maysville-Mason County Industrial Development Authority
Located along the banks of the Ohio River in northern Kentucky, Maysville and Mason County are heavily focused on workforce development.
One initiative is the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME), a partnership of regional manufacturers to address the shortage of technically skilled workers needed in advanced manufacturing. Students attend classes two days per week at a community college and work an additional 24 hours per week for a sponsoring employer. Upon completion, students receive an associate degree and with the practical skills gained during their paid work experience, most begin full-time employment.
In addition, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Workforce Center has just rolled out the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Academy in partnership with the State of Kentucky and U.S. Chamber. As a statewide program, TPM trains state and local leaders, business associations, employers and economic development agencies to drive partnerships with their education and training providers based on assessed need.
“On a local level, few areas are as aligned as Maysville and Mason County Kentucky’s allied workforce development partners, which is critical to ensure we have the workforce pipeline for any prospective employer looking to relocate,” said Owen McNeill, economic development director, Maysville-Mason County Industrial Development Authority.
Gearing manufacturer Stober Drives, located in Maysville, is a prime example of a company who put workforce development first – and see the firsthand benefits of doing so. According to McNeill, the company has become one of the employment leaders statewide.
“Stober decided 12 years ago to be in the ‘people development’ business, in addition to being in the manufacturing business, in order to ensure a pipeline of skills and talent to sustain our existence and growth,” said Peter Feil, VP and general manager of Stober Drives. “It is ironic that investments in people, often considered an ‘expense,’ result in dramatically better top- and bottom-line financial results.”
“Our workforce board, community college, chamber of commerce and K-12 educational systems are aligned like never before,” said McNeill. “This is allowing us to efficiently utilize forward-thinking, demand-driven workforce strategies such as apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship trainings to ensure our business and industry have the highly skilled, technical employees for their futures.”
A Strong Manufacturing Base Relies on Strong Workforce Training Programs
In southwestern Oklahoma, Lawton is the retail hub between Oklahoma City and Dallas. Local employers draw on a workforce of approximately 350,000 within a 45-minute radius. Historically, military and agriculture-related industries drove the economy, but today, that has shifted to include technology-related industries and manufacturing.
“We’re seeing growth in manufacturing because the labor pool is here,” said Brad Cooksey, President/CEO of Lawton Ft Sill Economic Development Corporation. “Manufacturing now accounts for a significant portion of the workforce and payroll dollars.”
The area is home to recognizable names such as Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Halliburton, Raytheon, Republic Paper, Silverline Plastics, Northrop Grumman and more. It’s also home to Ft. Sill, a U.S. Army post.
Goodyear, which began operation in Lawton in 1979 and now employs 3,000, relies on strong workforce training programs. It recently finished its modernization project and needs to ensure its workforce has the skills to keep up. It partners with Lawton’s Great Plains Technology Center (GPTC), part of a statewide system of publicly funded career and technology education centers.
According to Keith Bridges, director of economic development at GPTC, the center developed an industrial maintenance internship to fill Goodyear’s workforce pipeline. Interns spend two days a week working at Goodyear, one day completing online training modules and two days in GPTC’s 30,000-square-foot technical skills training facility.
“When Goodyear adds a new product or technology, we’ll change the curriculum to teach it,” said Bridges.
Close proximity to Ft. Sill is also a boon to local businesses, who rely on the steady flow of exiting military personnel and their families – and enjoy the ingrained work ethic and drug-free status that accompanies them. T&ID