Approximately 125 people representing business, education and economic development convened at Fort Piqua Plaza on Thursday, March 17th for the first Workforce Development Summit.  The day’s event was sponsored by the West Central Ohio Development Council, a group comprised of economic development directors from 6 counties (Auglaize, Champaign, Darke, Mercer, Miami, and Shelby).

The event, titled ‘Winning the Workforce War’ was organized in order to learn how businesses, communities and education centers are winning the regional and national war for talent. 

Morning breakout sessions informed attendees of the many efforts that are being put forth to connect students with local opportunity. 

  • Jared Ebbing, Director of Mercer County Economic Development shared the successful results that ‘Hometown Opportunity’ has demonstrated as a matching tool for job seekers (of all ages) and employers. 
  • Gerri Cotter, Project Manager for Ohio Office of Workforce Transformation cited examples as to how the ‘Ohio Means Jobs’ website/model is being utilized in K-12 education.
  • Maggie Varga, of ‘Southwest Ohio Council for Higher Education’ (SOCHE) explained the benefits of internship programs and how their organization manages the application process, hiring and payroll. 
  • Chad Bridgman, Internship Coordinator for Sinclair Community College shared the success of the Sinclair Business and Public Services Program. 
  • Workforce Development coordinators from the region outlined the programs available in their counties that are aligned with workforce needs and education systems.

 During lunch, attendees were engaged in a panel discussion of ‘Employer Best Practices’.  The panel speakers were as follows:

  • Pete Falk, Crown Equipment Corporation
  • Gwen Wilker, Emerson Climate Technologies
  • Scott McLemore, Honda North America
  • Angie Brunswick, ORBIS Corp.

Falk shared that working with the West Central Ohio Workforce Development Initiative (WCOWDI) assists in providing the necessary qualified training for Crown’s welding and machine trades skilled labor.  Wilker noted the importance of internships at Emerson.  Wilker stated that entry level positions are only filled by former interns.  McLemore commented about the value of working with education centers like Edison State College’s Engineering Technology program. Brunswick explained the need to educate parents on the opportunities that local manufacturing companies have to offer the future workforce.

The afternoon session focused on apprenticeships and how the highly desired form of training can be effective.  Upper Valley Career Center and Miami Valley Career Technology Center had students present who informed the audience of the value they are gaining from their apprenticeship experience.  The students showed enthusiasm of their selected field and great confidence.  Patrick Reardon, the Executive Director of the Ohio Apprenticeship Council outlined the benefits of a registered program. 

The day’s events provided a wealth of information that was of value to the attendees.  Scott McLemore, of Honda commented the importance of continuing events like this.