In 2013 at the urging of several area business leaders, the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership (SSEP) began an initiative to address the workforce issue in Shelby County. One of the primary goals was to better align existing education and workforce training programs with clearly defined industry-specific pathways to employment. The Workforce Partnership of Shelby County was born out of that effort.
According to the Center for Regional Development at BGSU, the economic, cultural and technological divide between larger cities and communities and rural small towns has never been greater. Many rural communities face significant challenges compared to larger cities and communities in attracting and retaining jobs to support a tax base that enables the building and maintenance of community assets and infrastructure. This in turn often makes it difficult for rural areas to retain and attract young people, executive leadership, and skilled workers, even when they are successful in attracting new employers to their communities. Young, high-skilled workers are making decisions on where they will live not based solely on where there are employment opportunities, but also on amenities, assets and experiences available in the communities where they feel they can lead interesting, meaningful lives.
Faced with this global battle for labor and talent, our community must invest in a more robust workforce and educational system. We must find additional ways to grow our own workforce pipeline for all types of careers. So how do we “grow our own” skilled workforce to meet the present and future needs of our local business and industry?
1. Shelby County needs to continue to refining and expanding the collaborative work spearheaded by the Workforce Partnership. The recent collaboration with the United Way to hire a career coach is a great example of an innovative program that is creating results. Another great example is the new partnership between Sidney City Schools, MRESC, Workforce Partnership and Upper Valley Career Center to create career pathways in manufacturing and construction.
2. Shelby County communities need to provide all our local schools and career centers with the support needed to get the job done. In addition to the necessary funding, parental support is also a critical success factor for transitioning students into a successful career.
3. It is important to encourage all career pathways because local business and industry have needs in nearly every area.
4. Business leadership must continue to step up and engage with the schools and workforce training institutions. While many businesses are engaged, now is not the time to let up on our efforts.
I have talked a lot about partnership and collaboration being very important to meeting the workforce needs, which is so key to maintaining a stable local economy. Allow me to use a current example to better explain what that looks like. Several months ago while evaluating our annual progress, SSEP leadership came to the conclusion that school funding for the Sidney public schools is an existing roadblock that negatively impacts housing, economic and community development. Our leadership concluded that school funding and school performance is critical to attracting talent to a community, especially families with children. We also concluded the following:
• The current real estate tax funding model does now allow for growth. A hybrid of income and real estate should be considered.
• Except for Sidney, voters in every public school district in Shelby County have approved a School income tax option. An earned income tax is a better way to fund Sidney City Schools.
• Sidney City Schools are funded at lower levels when compared to comparable school districts in the region. In fact, the recent Ohio Cupp Report showed that Sidney School expenditures per pupil were lower in every category, when compared to similar districts.
The SSEP Board, Sidney Business Leaders and Sidney Schools are presently working together to educate voters about the importance of investing in our youth, the future workforce of Sidney and Shelby County. You can learn more about why so many business leaders are supporting the May 4 Sidney City Schools Earned Income Tax Levy at the following link: https://www.sidneyschoolslevy.org/community-investment
STRONG SCHOOLS = STRONG BUSINESSES = STRONG COMMUNITY. Please get out and vote early or on cast your vote on May 4!
The writer is the executive director of the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership. Hill has more than 25 years of experience in economic development, business development, technology commercialization, entrepreneurship and workforce development. Address any questions or comments to [email protected]