Economic Development News

Chamber Board addresses workforce issues
Published: Friday, June 10, 2016
By: Dan Westhues


The most productive time of year for the Chamber board is gathering together at the annual retreat. There are no committee reports, no bylaw changes to approve, and no Robert’s Rules of Order to adhere to (which I will master before this year is over).  The retreat is a full eight hour day where the board discusses larger, more complex issues.  There is time for everyone to participate which allows for a more in-depth conversation and multiple views.

The April board retreat was centered on workforce.  The first half of the day was a presentation from the Docking Institute with whom we have contracted to conduct a labor study. You can read more about this in Missy Bonnot's Chamber TODAY article.  But the most telling part of the day was when our guest panel spoke.  The panel was made up of community leaders who deal with work force and education every day.  Paula Benne (C&S Business Services), Christine Ellinger (Central Bank), and Bob Volmert (ALPLA) represented employers.  Dr. Claycomb, (State Technical College of Missouri), and Larry Linthacum (JCPS) represented education.  They discussed their biggest challenges in hiring, difficulties in keeping skilled/talented employees, educational deficiencies and the gaps between what our industries need and what we are producing. We also discussed our strengths, of which there are plenty, and how to best capitalize on them to make the Jefferson City area a great place for employees and employers alike.

Christine Ellinger, Central Bank; Paula Benne, C & S Business Services; Larry Linthacum, JCPS, Dr. Donald Claycomb, State Technical College of Missouri; Bob Volmert, ALPLA

I don’t believe our situation is too different from other communities our size.  We want to attract talent, find ways to entice our natives to move back after college, and remain appealing to potential employers by having a skilled workforce.  That’s not too much to ask right?

So the big question of the day was what can the Chamber do to strengthen our workforce? 

Several ideas were discussed and we concluded that the biggest opportunity for us are students that are moving directly out of our high schools and into the workforce.  There is a significant population of young adults who for a myriad of reasons have chosen not to move on to higher education.  There is certainly a place for them and if identified early, we can make them more valuable to our employers.  One tangible idea is to host early job fairs in the schools to showcase the opportunities for employment after graduation and help the students understand what skills they will need to acquire those jobs.  Another idea is to strengthen and encourage more internships at the high school level with pathways to immediate employment after graduation.  

A second conversation was in regard to a better system for employers to reach potential employees and make them aware of the available jobs.  This is not a new idea. It has been brought up multiple times over the years by several employers struggling to find help.  We resolved that while the Chamber might not be the conduit for a job finding system, it is a project worth taking on.  We can do some legwork and facilitate the discussion toward a solution.  

The Chamber has a standing Human Resources committee that meets quarterly to discuss specific human resource issues.  We can engage this committee in work force development discussions and utilize the committee to help us take on the ideas from the retreat.  In addition, the Chamber Board authorized the creation of a Workforce Action Team (see Randy’s article in Chamber TODAY).

Overall, the retreat sparked a lot of good conversation.  We collectively agreed that helping improve the workforce is an excellent use of Chamber resources because it serves both engines on our jet – it adds benefit to our business members and aids economic development.  You can expect to see the two tasks mentioned above, plus a few more that were discussed, added to the Chamber work plan. 

I want to personally thank the board and the panel members for taking a full day to discuss these important issues.  It gets me fired up when a group such as this comes together with a positive attitude and work to make the Jefferson City area a better place.

Please be sure to contact me or Chamber President Randy Allen with your ideas for our community.  We value your input.

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