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)
“There is a great deal of demand in health information technology,” which also pays well, Motz said. That is because of a mandated transition to electronic record keeping in the health field, as well as increased need in the medical insurance field, he said.
The Washington County Public Schools Career Technology Education (CTE) program has a relationship with HCC, with representation on program advisory committees of the career programs, and collaborating to identify programs for which students can earn college credits while in high school, Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said in an e-mail.
Partnering with business
The economic development strategic study recommended that the EDC work with HCC, the public schools and businesses in developing an “adopt-a-school” program in which businesses would provide mentoring, lectures, plant tours and other career-guiding services.
“Our career programs have business partner and advisory boards, and I meet three to four times a year with our trades and industry council,” Wilcox said, although the system does not have a program involving partnering with individual schools.
However, there are business partnerships, Wilcox said.
“Just recently, we have started a new partnership with Volvo — focused on robotics and we have met ... with Potomac Edison about needs they have for linemen and other production jobs,” Wilcox wrote.
Washington County Technical High School offers 17 career programs, Wilcox said. They range from automotive and construction trades to computer game design and animation, according to the school system.
Enrollment has increased substantially at Tech High in the past few years and the school system is looking for ways to improve and expand its offering at the technical high school, Wilcox said.
“The one lesson that we have had reinforced over and over again is that the skill requirements of employees” continue to change, grow and become more specialized, Thomas said. “People need to have defined skills and the formal training to prove it.”
Of the people who access training programs through the consortium, about 90 percent receive certifications, Thomas said.
“Perhaps the biggest problem we face in improving our workforce is getting the local workforce to recognize that there are great job opportunities available in Washington County, but that they require additional training and more commitment than ever before,” Jeffers said.
Symposiums, not survey
Employers expect a variety of skills and a commitment to quality work and look for people with problem-solving, math and communications skills, he said.
One suggestion in the economic development strategic plan was to survey businesses and industries to determine their workforce needs.
The Workforce Development Committee considered that “but after reviewing many similar surveys from other markets, we concluded that they all basically came to the same conclusions,” Jeffers said.
The committee instead plans to hold a series of small group symposiums to expose employers to the training facilities already here and discuss any training gaps they think should be addressed, he said.
The first symposium is to be held in June and will focus on manufacturing, Jeffers said.
At about the same time, the committee wants to have a symposium to inform people about job openings in the area and the training facilities that can assist them in getting the skills they need for those types of jobs, he said.