PIQUA – The biggest complaint about the employment picture these days is no longer a lack of jobs, it’s a lack of employees qualified to fill those jobs. The West Central Ohio Development Coalition (WCODC) invited business, education, government and economic development professionals to a forum Thursday morning to address that very subject.
Winning the Workforce War was presented as a summit to help employers and communities of western Ohio build and/or attract a reliable, qualified workforce to build the future of the region.
The WCODC is an economic development collaboration among Darke, Allen, Auglaize, Champaign, Mercer, Miami and Shelby counties.
At the summit, Jared Ebbing, director of Mercer County Economic Development, offered a presentation on the HometownOpportunity.com website. The website started in Mercer County, but it now functions as a collaborative project among Mercer, Auglaize and Darke counties.
The website is entirely public funded, with each county contributing $25,000 a year for its operation. This enables the site to kept free for use by businesses, students and job seekers.
The site is more than a job posting site. It exists as a means of connecting employers to potential employees more easily, and the site targets those potential employees from the time they are still in high school.
Educational resources are available for students to determine what path they need to follow to find the career that suits them. There are tools in place to allow students and employers to find each other for the purposes of job shadowing and internships.
For college students away from home, the site enables those furthering their education to find career options available back home in businesses and industries they probably never even knew existed.
For adults looking for a career or a better career, job search and resume posting options are available as well.
The site includes considerable networking among all kinds of educational, business and job searching resources, as well as links to learn more about the community and quality of life to those who might consider moving in to the area.
“Pretty much every career you can dream of is in this area,” Ebbing said. The site helps companies get the word to potential employees about what is really available, and participants in the forum whose counties were not part of the Hometown Opportunity were animatedly discussing the site after the presentation.
Several presenters spoke on the individual counties’ own workforce initiatives, to share their ideas on what work so everyone can gain. Lisa Wendel, Career Pathway Coordinator, Darke County Economic Development, spoke on behalf of Darke County and the Partnering for Progress project.
Wendel said that Partnering for Progress (P4P) has brought together students and educators with businesses to help the future workers find a career that suits them and the means to achieve that, and to ensure that local businesses have a workforce that is qualified to fill the careers they have to offer in the operation of their business.
Among the projects developed by P4P are National Manufacturing Day participation for all county sophomores, Job Shadow week, in-school presentations, the senior job fair and teacher tours of area industries.
Greenville Mayor Mike Bowers said the sessions helped to illustrate that Greenville and Darke County “are a little bit ahead of the curve” when comparing initiatives among the counties.
“It’s a wonderful workshop,” Mike Stegall, Darke County Commissioner, said of the Winning the Workforce event. “What I’m really the most proud of is how we’re getting our Hometown Opportunity website out there, and we just learned this morning that our Job and Family Services has a new Facebook page, Ohio Means Jobs Darke County. So we’re trying to get everybody out there to realize we have so many opportunities in our area, all you have to do is just look.”
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