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Bryan County has formulated a team of officials to start prepping businesses and employees for the county’s transition into a Work Ready Certified county.

During the first meeting, some of the local team members – Development Authority Executive Director Jean Bacon, Bryan County Schools Assistant Superintendent Brad Anderson and Ken Boyd from Savannah Tech – met with leaders from our local Work Ready Region initiative – Dr. Ben Thompson, from Ogeechee Tech; Lee Thompkins, the region’s Project Manager; and Tom Hines from Savannah Tech – to talk about what’s happening regionally, and what that means for how things will be moving forward locally.

Bryan County is going to get $12,000 from a Work Ready Region grant and, in return, we have to complete certification in 18 months (instead of three years with no additional funds). But the regional team is planning on helping the county through the process.

The state’s idea behind the concept was to have groups of counties in different regions focus on a particular Georgia industry, and improve skills and training in that particular sector. Because the local port is one of the largest on the east coast, Thompson said logistics seemed like the most obvious choice for which industry our region should focus on.

Bryan County will need to have 300 people assessed as part of the certification. The assessment will basically tell a person what skills they have in relation to what skills local companies need. Local companies must also be profiled, to find out specifically what skills are needed for the jobs they’re looking to fill. The goal is matching one to the other, and providing training to help fill any gaps.

Thompson said a Work Ready Certificate may provide a clearer indication of a worker’s skill level than a high school diploma (but should not serve as a substitute), because the Work Ready assessments provide a standardized look at that person’s skill level, compared to everyone else. He said it should make work in Human Resource departments easier, too, because it’s one more way to make an employee selection.

There was talk about how pushing higher education along with the assessments is going to be important. There was also concern about how the initiative doesn’t yet have an effective tracking method for success.

In other words – all the kinks haven’t been worked out yet.

But Thompson said the initiative is unique to Georgia and its workforce. As more and more counties, employees and businesses get involved in it, the more powerful it will be. "If you know how many people in a particular area have the skills your company needs, then you can make a better decision about relocating there," he said.

Hines added that local businesses need to buy into the concept and express that there is a workforce worth coming to the area for. If the county can identify its certified workforce, it’s an advantage to existing and new businesses, he said.

Makes sense.

Buying into a concept aimed at decreasing unemployment rates, increasing locally-based employment skills, decreasing turnover rates and increasing job productivity sounds like it should be a no-brainer.

So as the county starts coming up with a strategy to complete all the Work Ready requirements for certification, we hope the residents of Bryan County will support this initiative – and, in turn, reap all the benefits it will hopefully bring.


Jessica Holthaus for the Bryan County News

July 26, 2008

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