Local businesses, schools partner for workforce development push
Chautauqua County saw an increase in the number of jobs by 400 between April 2018 and April of this year.
How did this happen?
Well, according to George Borrello, county executive, one reason for the increase in jobs is the culmination of businesses and educational institutions working together toward workforce development. From day one of Borrello’s term, which started Jan. 1, 2018, he focused on workforce development by visiting 100 businesses in 100 days.
“Based on what I saw in touring businesses is that business is good. All they need is more people qualified and skilled,” he said. “These businesses aren’t struggling because of a lack of business. It’s about having people show up every day who can pass a drug test and have the skills they need. The need for skilled workers and training we’ve already seen organizations and educational institutions moving in that direction, and it is starting to pay off. A number of factors led to the increase (in jobs). Bringing attention (to workforce development) like we have since day one has also helped to contribute to that.”
Borrello said it’s helpful that an educational institution like Jamestown Community College is hiring its first work force development administrator. Also, he said JCC’s workforce readiness scholarship signings, which occurred earlier this week, is another way educational institutions are working toward developing a workforce for businesses in Chautauqua County.
The scholarship will allow future JCC students, who will graduate later this month from their respective school districts, to attend programs offered at the MTI at no cost. The scholarship will provide funding for in-state tuition, additional collegiate fees, book expenses and program supplies. An emphasis of the scholarship at the time of announcement earlier this year was that its funding went beyond the cost of tuition, covering additional expenses incurred from the student experience.
“We have to provide assistance to students to get workforce training for manufactures in the county. That is the next step with programs like the workforce readiness scholarship,” Borrello said.
Borrello said during his tours of businesses in the county he encouraged company officials to work with educational institutions on workforce development.
“Businesses have to be engaged and we asked them to get engaged. Some are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is some measure of improvement,” Borrello said.
During the tours, Borrello said he asked each business to fill out a survey, which collected data from each company. A report was created based on the data collected from each business.
“We’re sharing that data with businesses in the county and various educational institutions. Hopefully it completes the picture for people. That data we gathered helped create a clearer picture,” he said.
“It’s nice to see after years of losing (jobs) we’re starting to see a reversal in that trend.”
Mark Geise, Chautauqua County executive for economic development, said the increase in the number of jobs from 50,900 in April 2018 to 51,300 April of this year is a combination of new businesses and longtime companies adding more employees.
“We know current businesses are filling jobs and we had a lot of projects come online and those businesses are creating new jobs with things like the AgriAmerica and the Hilton DoubleTree have been in that time period, also the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel. These projects are all significant job creators,” Geise said.
Geise said Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency officials routinely contact businesses to see if there is anything they can do to help a company.
“Rich (Dixon, IDA chief financial officer) and I are constantly talking to businesses,” Geise said. “We have three business development managers reaching out and contacting people we have done business with in the past and others to see where they are at, do they need any assistance or do they have any projects planned. We do a lot of marketing and that flashes the IDA logo around and provides information about us so people know what we do.”
Geise agrees with Borrello that the increase in the number of jobs and the 1 percent decrease in unemployment during the same time period is good news for county businesses.
“It’s a good step. It’s good news for the county and shows that we are going in the right direction,” he said.