Making sure the workforce of Grove City and the region has the right skills for the current local job market is going to take a combined effort of the city, schools, businesses and other institutions.
The Workforce Study Group met in mid-May for the third time since it formed earlier this year. Its mission is to address skill and demographic gaps in the local labor pool. Members of the group include representatives from the city, South-Western City Schools, the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce, Mount Carmel Health Systems, Harrison College and Columbus State Community College.
"What we want to do is figure our role and our place in this sort of regional workforce effort," said Grove City Councilman Jeff Davis, who is the chairman of the committee. "I can see the puzzle pieces, but I can't see them in the puzzle."
The featured speaker of the meeting was Kenny McDonald of the regional economic development organization Columbus 20/20, who said workforce development is the No. 1 issue in economic development.
"We have a ceiling on our economic growth because we can't fuel the companies with people," McDonald said. "(Employers) tell us there's more than jobs than they can fill ...
"Twenty-five years ago, we started telling people we weren't going to have manufacturing or (information technology jobs). We're reaping what we sowed."
Aligning the needs of the community's businesses with the city's incentive programs and the education programs of the schools and higher learning institutions is key, McDonald said. Fostering relationships between businesses and learning institutions and incentives, in particular, for skills training is crucial, he added.
When entities link "training dollars to people, you can't lose," McDonald said, because the skills remain even when the jobs change. "Continuing education is a bigger and bigger deal."
McDonald said it is important to move with the market, building on the short-term, immediate needs of companies.
"That is the most market-oriented thing we can do," he said. "Longer term I think is where you're making bets. If you're not working inside the short-term opportunities, you're not going to make those connections."
McDonald said something other states have that Ohio doesn't is a customized workforce training system for individual companies to address their current needs and fill their current available jobs.
"It's an area where communities can make a difference," he said. "We have employers with needs today and tomorrow we have an obligation to help serve."
Committee members and other attendees also spoke about the importance of making people, particularly students, aware of the opportunities they have available.
"They don't know what exists," said Mike Davis, president of Junior Achievement of Central Ohio. "That's what we're hearing from the students. ... How do we expose kids to the different opportunities?"
Jason Koma, director of external affairs for Mount Carmel, said while health care is a growing field, many people aren't aware what that means and what jobs are available.
"Not everybody in health care is a doctor or a nurse," he said.
The meeting concluded with committee members agreeing the next step should be to take inventory of all the partnerships, internships and workforce-related programs in Grove City. McDonald said another good place to start is to determine what positions are in demand in the local labor market
The study group is scheduled to meet next in July.