Bryan County took its first step in preparing for Work Ready Certification Thursday, with a regional and local look into where the county is headed with this new initiative.
A few of Bryan County’s Work Ready team sat down with regional members to discuss the beginning planning stages for the county’s transition into the program.
Dr. Ben Thompson from Ogeechee Tech helped prepare the Work Ready Region grant last year. The region, which includes Bryan, Bulloch, Candler, Emanuel, and Liberty Counties, will receive $500,000 to pursue the state’s concept of having groups of counties in different regions focus on a particular Georgia industry, and improve skills and training in that particular sector.
Bryan County’s cut is $12,000 and has 18 months to complete certification, compared to a three year timeline without additional funding. Thompson provided local officials with an overview of how the regional team will help.
"We have agreed to help your community get work certified and support you in getting employees tested and assessed," he said. "We’ll help pay for job profiles...We are going to help the companies who have come to Bryan County increase their skilled workforce."
Thompson said Bryan County will need to get about 300 people assessed.
"Your goal is to certify enough people in your local workforce to show the world you’re Work Ready," Thompson said. "The assessments help match people to jobs. The idea behind it is – you enjoy doing your job more, because you have the skills for it."
Thompson said that last year, when the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development first began looking into this project, they wanted to find a way to increase workforce skills and training in Georgia's biggest industries, and have each region focus on a particular sector.
"Logistics was an obvious opportunity for us and the concept was a good one," Thompson said. "We’re planning to organize logistic companies in the port area to help determine ways to improve their available workforce, their present workforce and their employee training programs, geared toward more specific skills."
The other aspect of the initiative is the "seamless education opportunity," which Thompson said targets early high school students to get them interested in logistics and help them "make an easy step into a technical school or logistics program."
This is where working with the Board of Education comes in and locally, Assistant Superintendent Brad Anderson is one of the Work Ready co-leaders.
"The BoE can leverage what we’re doing in logistics, to help improve scores and knowledge in these areas, and increase graduation rates," Thompson said.
Development Authority Executive Director Jean Bacon asked what the next step should be for Bryan County. Anderson will be going through training July 29-30 and after that, Thompson recommends Bryan County team members get together and plan a strategy.
"Figure out the easiest way to assess employees, find a testing location, use your grant money to hire proctors," he said.
Thomas Hines, executive director of Training Operations at Savannah Tech, told Bacon and Anderson that the initiative will attract more new businesses to the area by illustrating that there is already a compatible workforce.
"If we are able to identify Bryan County’s certified workforce, it’s an advantage to existing business and new business – get those existing businesses profiled. If you identify the workforce, have them certified. Have some of your workforce hired into those profiled positions, and you have established yourself as a work ready force," he said. "Set the stage of where you’re going with this and get the county committed to it."
Hines stressed involvement with students as critical.
"Having a commitment from high schools – this can lead to their future and their certification, and might start a long term trend; setting an example that you can get out of where you are. This can offer hope on a tangible basis."
Thompson said the county needs to set "a good pace" for completing assessments, but he was confident the county will complete its certification in less than 18 months.
"This is impacting people’s lives – let’s do the best we can," he said.