Economic Development News
Workforce Action Team Gets Started
Published: Monday, October 17, 2016
By: Missy Bonnot, Director, Economic Development
Finding and hiring employees with the necessary skill set has become increasingly challenging for Cole County employers in the last several years. The issue has surfaced during meetings with President’s Roundtable (top officials in manufacturing) and in existing business company visits.
In April 2016, the Chamber Board of Directors held a Board Retreat and the day was focused on Workforce Development issues. With Chairman Dan Westhues facilitating, a panel of Education and Human Resource professionals discussed challenges in the workforce. The panel consisted of Dr. Don Claycomb, State Technical College; Larry Linthacum, Jefferson City Public Schools; Paula Benne, C & S Business Services; Chrissy Ellinger, Central Bank; Bob Volmert, Alpla (now with Continental Commercial Products).
The topics included:
- How has the workforce changed in the last 5 years?
- What is your biggest hiring issue overall?
- What are the trends in screening workforce? Is there a shift in hiring with a criminal history? Drug testing?
- Is the current workforce limiting productivity and/or opportunities for company growth?
- What are the obstacles at JCPS and STC in aligning students with the workplace?
- How can the chamber (or community) assist with increasing the pool of candidates, in particular 18 year olds graduating from high school?
- What is the biggest workforce challenge facing companies over the next 5 years and how do we address those concerns?
- How can we attract talent back to Jefferson City? The 25-year-olds and the 30-40 year olds that are the County Public/Private School graduates.
- How do we let people know we have jobs available and create more awareness of the opportunities in JC?
Following the Board discussion at the retreat, it was determined a Labor Study was needed to obtain objective information about the status of the area’s workforce. In May, the Chamber commissioned a Labor Study by the Docking Institute of Fort Hays State University. When the study was completed the end of July, it afforded a broader understanding of the Jefferson City Labor Basin and available Labor Pool.
In addition to the Labor Study, the Board elected to form a Workforce Action Team consisting of workforce development professionals and a subset of the current Chamber Human Resource Committee to focus on action items which could impact workforce issues.
The Action Team broke into 4 subcommittees which have already started working diligently to address specific workforce issues. In fact, one of the subcommittees has already planned an Industry Career Fair for high school seniors to be held October 18 with 20 local employers participating.
The subcommittees and their objectives are as follows:
Subcommittee 1 - Cole County Education Council
Develop Cole County Education Council representing Cole County high schools to link needs of employers with educational institutions who are preparing the high school graduate for full time employment. The council would serve as an ongoing dialogue and may include monitoring of graduate and non-graduate placement into workforce or other metrics which support successful transitions.
This subcommittee met and it was determined this subcommittee will defer work on the Education Council until the other subcommittees have completed their initial work. This group will reconvene in 2017.
Subcommittee 2 - Electronic Job Posting Database
Develop electronic Job Posting Database accessible through the Chamber website.
This subcommittee will be working on an electronic job posting database for the Jefferson City area. The database will be important in creating more awareness about the job opportunities in our area.
Other chambers of commerce are currently providing this service to their members and we would like to be able to offer the job posting service to chamber members at no cost, if possible. This would enhance their membership benefits.
Subcommittee 3 - Recruiting Program for High Schoolers
Develop a Jefferson City area employment recruiting program marketed to regional high school graduates.
Every year in Cole County and the surrounding counties we have students that graduate from high school and go directly into the workplace. So what can we do to inform the students of job opportunities in the Jefferson City area?
The Chamber recognizes with low unemployment rates in Cole County, it is a challenge to find available workforce and high school graduates entering the workforce after graduation are an important group of potential employees.
This subcommittee will be focusing on two things:
- Recruiting to local high schools in our immediate area to commute or live in Cole County to work. This would include social media, job fairs, promotional material, etc. High schools would include Cole, Callaway, Osage and Moniteau, etc.
- Recruiting to high schools outside our immediate area that would move to Cole County to work in Cole County. This would include areas such as Phelps, Camden, Pettis, Saline, Audrain, Maries, Morgan, etc. This activity is more about marketing Jefferson City as well as marketing job opportunities.
The first deliverable of this group is to assist in facilitating Industry Career Fair. This will be the first time that we are hosting a Job Fair in conjunction with the annual College Fair. This event is targeted to high school seniors that will be graduating in May, 2017.
Subcommittee 4 - Learning to Earning
To develop innovative strategies for high school students who will transition directly into the workforce.
Many high school graduates will go directly into the workforce upon graduation. So what are some tools we can provide to them in order for them to be successful? The To- Do List to go directly to a 2 or 4 year higher education system is pretty clear but what does a high school graduate need to do to start their career and how can we help them make the school to work transition?
Some questions the subcommittee discussed were: What soft skills do students need to be successful? How do we reach the students? Are businesses interested in providing internship opportunities? Would employers be willing to provide tours to educate students on their business?
The subcommittees will meet for the remainder of 2016 and report progress to the full Action Team on a regular basis with a full report to be given to the Board of Directors in January, 2017.