WILMINGTON — A workforce initiative is being launched in Clinton County to tackle labor force challenges that economic developers say need to be addressed to empower the local economy upon a rising path.
“It’s a conversation that’s not going to go away. It’s a conversation that we have with all of our [new business] prospects that are looking here currently,” Clinton County Economic Development Director Jennifer Ekey told county commissioners at a recent appointment.
A “Clinton County Workforce Roundtable” meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 23. This roundtable meeting will bring together a combination of business, education, non-profit, government, and economic/community development representatives.
While strategies vary, workforce development has been defined as training and education that position people for success in an area workforce. It also can involve community supports such as housing stock, transportation, and day care.
Ekey said educational partners expected to take part in the roundtable meeting include the Southern Ohio Educational Service Center (ESC) located in Wilmington, the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE) out of Dayton, and local school superintendents have been invited.
Clinton County Port Authority Executive Director Daniel G. Evers echoed Ekey’s comment about how promising a suitable workforce can be when trying to attract employers or when existing businesses consider expanding.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with several prospects recently just on issues of workforce,” Evers said at the same appointment with commissioners.
He and Ekey are being asked more “programmatic” questions about the local workforce, and not simply how many are there, Evers said.
Workforce development, as a local challenge, is not going to solve itself organically, added Evers.
He thinks if workforce development is not addressed effectively, there will be an economic cost.
“We will lose expansion projects. We just will,” he said.
Ekey thinks it will be helpful if local employers and area educators understand what resources are available and what the needs are, and then “see whether we can make some of these connections differently than what we’ve done in the past.”
She added, “We know generally what the issues are from the employer side. We’re trying to see what resources we have available, and who’s doing what. Because I think it’s one of these topics where a lot of people are doing a little, and nobody really knows what we have available in terms of information, access, and resources.”
Evers said with the new workforce initiative, the hope in part is to have shared knowledge and some economies of scale.
From both a prospecting standpoint and from an existing business standpoint, locally there is a need to do some creative problem-solving around workforce challenges, he said.
Evers said other places have some of the same type of workforce challenges as Clinton County. That’s all the more reason, he thinks, to be aggressively pro-active in addressing them so as to stand out to prospective employers.
Part of the effort behind the initiative is not only to provide and produce a labor force that can work these job openings, she said, but companies are looking at a community’ response to the issue and how creative it is.
The Workforce Roundtable is an initiative of the Clinton County Port Authority, OhioMeansJobs Clinton County, Southern Ohio Educational Service Center, and the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.