EDC's Workforce Development Committee focuses on skills gap in manufacturing
Hagerstown Community College industrial technology and energy instructor Tony Valente teaches production practices that local manufacturers may use to improve their workforce. (By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer / February 22, 2013)
Linking people and training
The consortium is essentially a broker that links individuals to the training they desire, with funding following the individual, rather than the consortium funding specific training programs, he said.
The consortium works each year with about 400 people in the three-county area in its adult and displaced worker programs and about half of those are from Washington County, Thomas said. The programs serving at-risk youths and high school dropouts work with about 300 people in the region, he said.
Hagerstown Community College is the consortium’s primary provider for job-training programs, Thomas said.
HCC has more than 20 Workforce Investment Act occupational training programs, including administration of justice, alternative energy, nursing, pharmacy technician and mechanical engineering technology, according to the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which, among other things, administers state financial aid programs.
There is strong participation at HCC in programs such as commercial driver training and health care occupations, including nursing and medical office personnel, Thomas said.
“That rings true in all three of our counties,” Thomas said.
Much of the interest in truck training has to do with high demand — people see it in the classified ads — while health care will continue to be a growing field as the country’s population ages, he said.
“Virtually everyone who goes through that program gets a job,” Gerald Haines, the director of Instruction at HCC, said of the Commercial Vehicle Training program at the college.
About 75 percent of the nurses working in Washington County were trained at HCC, and the numbers are similar for its radiologic technology program, college spokeswoman Beth Stull said.
The Industrial Technology and Trades program at HCC works to provide training for students as new technologies come on line, particularly as more processes become computerized, said Theresa Shank, the college’s dean of Continuing Education. The college also works with different businesses to determine their goals and needs for customized training programs, she said.
“Graduates from our Alternative Energy program are doing quite well at getting employment,” Stull said. That includes those who obtain solar photovoltaic installer certification, she said.
Making employers aware the training is available at HCC is one issue, Shank said. The college has a welding course, “but I’m not sure a lot of the local businesses know we offer that,” she said.
Sometimes, an employer might only need specialized training for a few workers and developing a small, limited program can be expensive, Shank said.
Baby boomers making a move
The aging population creates needs in other areas, Haines said.
“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of emphasis on supervisory skills,” Haines said.
Baby boomers, some of whom held onto jobs longer than anticipated because of the downturn in the economy, are getting ready to retire, which means new people are needed to fill managerial roles, he said.
Career programs at the college have advisory committees that include local industry experts who advise the college on keeping current on their employee skill requirements, Shank said.