SIDNEY — The Workforce Partnership of Shelby County (WP) was organized in 2013 by private industry leaders to combat the shortage of qualified workers in Shelby County. The mission is: 1) Strengthen the emerging workforce to fill local jobs by aligning the soft and technical skills learned in school to meet the needs of industry; 2) Implement programming that results in exploration of local careers.
“WP represents 40 private industry partners, whose investments are vital to Shelby County’s future economic success,” said Deb McDermott, Workforce Partnership executive director. “Six years ago, WP took its first steps by implementing workforce classrooms and programs at Sidney City Schools, and today has expanded to work with every Shelby County school district (public and private) at some level.”
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During the past six years of programming, WP has recorded almost 20,000 touchpoints with Shelby County students that focus on soft skills training and local career exploration. Through coordinated activities, such as lesson plans, classroom speakers, exploration events, job shadowing, and recruiting events, students meet local employers … often companies they did not even know existed. This programming is geared to attract and harness local talent by creating interest in local careers. Retaining local talent creates a more sustainable workforce.
The Workforce Partnership now serves as the Business Advisory Committee for Shelby County Superintendents under the oversight of Midwest Regional Educational Service Center. These meetings build stronger relationships and communications between school administrators and industry leaders to create a cohesive strategy to develop a prepared workforce.
Hometown Opportunity.com continues to gain traction in Shelby County. This local career tool, now funded by the city of Sidney and Shelby County Commissioner’s Office, is being utilized in the schools by training students to explore local companies and careers via the website. This tool only promotes regional employers and their job openings, striving to attract qualified applicants and retain local talent.
The Workforce Partnership is comprised of industry partners that come from all areas: manufacturing, skilled trades, construction, healthcare, logistics, and parts suppliers. In 2016, the Upper Valley Career Center was added to the WP Advisory Board. This collaboration brings an added level of technical training and field apprenticeships to the students.
One of our biggest challenges is the ability to engage students under age 18 in “real life” work experience, which could set them on the trajectory for full-time employment following graduation. Legislatively, our Board Chair has worked diligently to lead reform in state law to allow for expanded work experience opportunities. Legislation was approved this year that will allow mentorship employment with manufacturing companies, and WP will continue to pursue expansion into the construction industry. For students who stay at the home school, this would allow students to work a part-time job that can lead to full-time after graduation, entering the workforce at a living wage income with medical benefits.
While WP supports all career paths, there is an emphasis placed on careers that do not require a four-year degree. These in-demand careers are often overlooked, yet offer competitive salaries, with apprenticeships and tuition reimbursement available for continued education, eliminating college debt. For students who do choose to leave the area for college, which is a large number, the fruits of labor will be seen by their return to the area when they are ready to work. Based on the strong economy, the need for good employees will continue and WP will continue to drive initiatives in the local middle and high schools to combat the situation. To learn how to become a part of this organization, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.workforcepartner.com.