Editor’s note: This is the third of a series of stories which will be published over the next several months about the role of the Workforce Partnership of Shelby County.
SIDNEY — A true partnership isn’t just 50 percent from one person and 50 percent from another person. A partnership requires 100 percent from all people involved in the project or venture.
Such is the case of the The Workforce Partnership of Shelby County. The businesses/industries involved give 100 percent to the endeavor. And the schools — both city and county — also give 100 percent.
“The Workforce Partnership initiative is a unique model of workforce development because it is spearheaded and funded by private businesses in Shelby County,” said Deb McDermott, director. “This allows activities to be coordinated based upon their input and needs, without any ‘red tape.’ These businesses are committed to impacting Shelby County’s economy by developing and attracting local talent, which is vital to the retention and expansion of industry in our area. The Workforce Partnership programming is available to all schools in Shelby County, both public and private. Shelby County is extremely fortunate to have such forward-thinking business leaders investing in our local students and community.”
Brad Oehlhof, NK Parts Industries Inc. human resource manager; Bob Snarr, Slagle Mechanical president; John Bertsch, Detailed Machining president/CEO; Devon Beer, Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics president; Mick Given, Ferguson Construction president; John Campbell, Wayne Trail a Lincoln Electric Company general manager; Don “D Jay” Baird, Emerson procurement director; and Paul Dentinger, Honda of America Anna Engine Plant manager, were asked to share their thoughts about the Workforce Partnership.
Why does your company invest in Workforce Partnership of Shelby County?
Oehlhof: “NKP invests in the Workforce Partnership to address the needs of our youth who will be entering the workforce. There is a lack of preparedness that needs to be addressed and we believe the Workforce Partnership is a way to address and support our youth.”
Snarr: “We feel that every effort that we can make to help influence the workforce to stay in Shelby County will benefit all of the partners. Every business needs to maintain a solid workforce and the Workforce Partnership can be a valuable resource.”
Bertsch: “As a Manufacturer I have the need for a good workforce to be successful in our business and the personal satisfaction to help students to jumpstart there carrier and have personal satisfaction for them.”
Beer: “To support awareness of Shelby County employment opportunities and the development of those skills necessary to prepare our students for life after high school or college.”
Given: “We are an investor in this program because we want to try and change a long standing culture and give our graduating seniors in all of Shelby Co. options as to the various career paths that are available to them. This process will not only strengthen our county but will also allow our local industries to continue to grow with an educated workforce.”
Campbell: “Our people are the most important resource that makes our company successful. Workforce Partnership supports the development of future resources. It also allows us to make contact with kids so that they can understand what we do and what career opportunities exist within our company.”
Baird: “Shelby County companies, like many other regions in the country, are facing a shortage of qualified workforce to fill available positions. The good news is the US economy is making a comeback and companies like Emerson are reinvesting in the US. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see all the growth in our own backyard but the challenge is having a workforce that is ready to support this growth. The Workforce Partnership helps educate and prepare the next generation of workers. This includes all aspects from college bound students to skilled trades to production workers. Emerson is one of many local companies that supports Workforce Partnership because we want to continue to grow, and to do so we need access to a larger pool of qualified workers. Workforce Partnership is one important avenue that helps educate our younger generation of all the opportunities that Shelby County has to offer.”
Dentinger: “Honda believes that this dedicated effort is what we need to help ensure that students who are future members of the workforce are aware of the wide array of good careers available at Honda and related operations right here in this region.”
What is your vision of the impact this initiative will make on Shelby County?
Oehlhof: “NKP’s vision is to see the readiness of the local students to be ready for employment after school if they do not attend college.”
Snarr: “It will create more awareness to the workforce of all of the opportunities that are available here in Shelby County.”
Bertsch: “With the amount of people that are employed in Shelby county and all the different level of jobs I feel this could be huge. We know that if we do nothing we can expect the same results and fall behind the rest of the world. I also understand that this program won’t fix all the problems but if this program can expose these kids to something that sparks their interest and they can see the results, it can make a big impact on their future as well as the local community.”
Beer: “Our students will be better prepared to compete for the best employment opportunities and will understand the variety and vitality of employment options available in Shelby County.”
Given: “This is a marathon race and not a sprint when it comes to changing cultures and perceptions of careers that do not require a 4-year college degree. In the long run this process will not only benefit all of our Shelby County industries but most importantly, the students! Our hope is that by taking the time and effort to partner with all of the schools in the county, and truly educate our students about the various industries and careers available to them along with discussion between the student, school counselor and the parents, that they will make a more informed decision as to the best career path for each individual. This initiative will continue to make Shelby County stronger and our county’s graduating seniors will be able to find successful careers in Shelby County.”
Campbell: “I am hopeful that more kids will understand the abundance of opportunities that exist locally and that they do not necessarily need to move far away to accomplish their educational and career goals.”
Baird: “I think the impact on Shelby County is twofold: to educate students on options they have for a rewarding and successful job right here in Shelby county, and to see area business continue to grow with a qualified workforce. By options, I mean those that don’t necessarily require a 4-year college degree. Many high-paying and rewarding jobs right here in Shelby County are going unfilled because of a shortage in the skilled trades workforce. Positions such as Electricians, Construction workers, Tool Makers, Equipment Technicians, Welders, etc. are prime examples. Most companies now have on-the-job training or pay for employees to get trained in the skilled trades due to lack of workers. It’s shocking to hear of college students graduating with $40,000 or more in debt, only to land a job paying $30,000 a year. We need to better educate students and parents on the options they have available so informed decisions can be made that best meet the needs, talents and interests of the individual.”
Dentinger: “This will position Shelby County as a location of choice for the next generation entering the workforce.”
Why do you personally think Workforce Partnership is good for Shelby County?
Oehlhof: “NKP enjoyed the one on one interaction when we attended the Career Exploration Academy 2017 with the local students.”
Snarr: “Slagle Mechanical has enjoyed the opportunity to work with the local schools and their students. We feel that the students will continue to benefit from the program. The workforce videos that have been developed have received very positive feedback. We are proud to be a Partner!”
Bertsch: “In the past I have gone to classrooms to speak to the kids and it is amazing the interest they have in how things are made, or being made so close to home. Also challenging them with the math or sciences used in the processes helps them realize that what they learn in school can help them make a difference. I explain to them the choices they make now can impact their future. It is interesting to see their reaction with real world experiences.”
Beer: “The Workforce Partnership is a huge advantage for everyone involved. For the students it creates learning opportunities that motivate them and challenge them to reach their potential. Connecting them to these activities are meaningful because it translates to skills employers in our community are looking for. I’ve seen students deliver meaningful presentations on important topics, participate in mock interviews, ask great questions, learn about great companies, and so much more. This is a signature program strong on workforce skills that will deliver bright and eager students to employers right here in our backyard.”
Given: “By working with the students we see the individual excitement that takes place and their interest level in careers increase. We have been able to see various local companies have the opportunity to even hire some of the graduates with success. Obviously that is the final test for this initiative which should continue to grow each and every year.”
Campbell: “Feedback from the teachers that they see kids starting to think about their future plans sooner than prior years and feedback from parents that supports this same point that their kids are thinking about their future and asking questions because they truly want to get it figured out.”
Dentinger: “The timing of the Partnership and its efforts could not have come at a better time. Honda will be filling many positions in the coming years as we continue to invest in our operations and as many of our current tenured associates reach retirement age.”
“If you are a business owner or leader in Shelby County, please consider partnering with this initiative. Workforce Partnership is fairly young, the activities and programming continues to expand,” said McDermott. “Local students finding local careers is the goal.”
Contact McDermott, Workforce Partnership director, at 937-498-9900 to learn more or contact one of the business leaders who currently invest in Workforce Partnership.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.