Meeting the Workforce Challenge

Posted on Monday, May 18, 2015 by GROW Licking County

If you are involved in economic development or human resources, then you are well aware of the enduring challenge for growing businesses and communities to secure a high-quality, reliable, and trainable workforce. Licking County is extremely fortunate to have a workforce that is as diverse, well-trained, and committed as any in the nation. Our workforce – our citizenry – and our workforce development partners and programs are often cited by new and existing companies as one of our community’s most favorable elements.   


Despite this positive reality, as unemployment drops and the labor market tightens, all employers are impacted. Additionally, many in our current workforce are approaching retirement age; these factors can – and do – present challenges for employers. Licking County’s community leaders recognize this, and are taking steps to ensure that we can deliver the highest-quality, well-trained, available employees in the nation. We are undertaking an initiative designed to help us achieve this goal.


Project Prepare


Project Prepare, a pilot program, is a collaboration of many economic development and workforce development partners within our community, designed to create a more robust pipeline of quality employees for our manufacturing employers and create opportunities for a rewarding career in the manufacturing and skilled trades sectors for our community’s residents. The goal of this program is two-fold:


1.          To develop a strategy that creates increased exposure to manufacturing, its benefits, opportunities, and the skills necessary to pursue a career in manufacturing;


2.          To further advance our community’s targeted, user-designed skilled trades programming that combines both on-site training and development with core classroom (real and virtual) education, to create viable employment opportunities within the manufacturing economy upon completion.


We have two primary target audiences. One is high school students, who may not have an immediate interest in pursuing a four-year degree, and may be unaware of the exceptional career opportunities that manufacturing and the skilled trades can offer. The second is adult learners, who wish to expand their skills and improve their career prospects.


Working with two area high schools, we have already started to introduce students to the career possibilities that manufacturing represents and the skills and training required to pursue these careers. Students have received in-person presentations, and viewed a video describing work in the manufacturing and skilled-trades arenas in the words of individuals working in these fields within our community. Several local manufacturing firms have also hosted guided tours featuring Q & A sessions to further engage and inform interested students. We intend to continue to expand this outreach and introduction to the opportunities that our county’s manufacturing sector presents. Multiple additional Licking County school districts are lining up to participate in subsequent years’ programming on an on-going basis. 


Additionally, we are working with Licking County companies, and our technical training and workforce development partners, to further enhance the existing training opportunities that can enable careers in the manufacturing and skilled trades. This training pathway will include “hands on” experience, along with classroom training and orientation. It will be developed, and available, to learners of all ages, and will complement the nationally recognized training and educational opportunities already in place in our community. We are collaborating to provide our job seekers with targeted skill sets being sought by our area employers, creating mutually beneficial opportunities for our companies and our residents.


A critical component of this effort is affordability. Working with local companies, and our partner organizations, scholarships will be made available for many individuals interested in pursuing this career training. Our goal is to remove as many potential impediments as possible, facilitating life-changing opportunities for residents, and continuing to develop the greatest workforce available anywhere.


GROW Licking County is pleased to be joining with The Licking County Chamber of Commerce, OhioMeansJobsLicking County, Central Ohio Technical College, C-TEC, The Licking County Foundation, Southgate Corporation, The Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, and Buckeye Skilled Trades, among others, in this visionary pilot program. This is, we believe, yet one more example of how our community coalesces around opportunities to enable, and simplify, success.


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