Finding skilled workers with a good work ethic who will be on the job on a consistent basis is not as easy as it once was.
That was the consensus at the quarterly Workforce Investment Board conference Tuesday afternoon. The meeting was the third in a series aimed at connecting and aligning school systems with the needs of the workforce in Chautauqua County.
The first conference addressed developing the workforce business and industries in Chautauqua County need. The second in the series asked how to align Chautauqua County school systems with the needs of the economy.
Bill Daly, IDA administrative director, speaks during the quarterly Workforce Investment Board conference.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
The conference had a panel discussion consisting of Bill Daly, IDA administrative director; Andrew Johnson, director of human resources for TitanX Engine Cooling; Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce; and Grant Umberger, director of the Center for Continuing Education at Jamestown Community College. Additionally, the conference allowed for a question and answer session with the people in attendance.
While each man spoke about their area of expertise, a common theme was unveiled.
"You go to all these good manufacturers around here, and you know what they want?" Daly asked. "They want someone with a brain, who will show up at 7 in the morning, understand that they will stay there until 3 that day, and every other day, unless it's a vacation day or a holiday."
Johnson, Tranum and Umberger each echoed the words of Daly, expressing how difficult it is to find skilled workers, with the understanding of work ethic.
"Doing the capital improvements, raising money, installing equipment frankly, that is the easy part," Tranum said. "The hardest part has been the recruitment side."
The group discussed different ways to address the issue, which is being felt all over. It talked about ways to encourage children to entertain the idea of working in a job fueled by science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Additionally, it spoke about how to encourage people who grew up in the area to return to or remain in the area to work as adults.
Benjamin Spitzer, superintendent of Chautauqua Lake Central School, spoke about the difficulty schools have, attempting to teach children the "soft skills" needed in the work place, on top of the state-mandated lessons.
"The soft skills, frankly, I think are hard skills to teach," Spitzer said. "Those kids that come to school and have them, I think the way the education system works with those students, they can define and develop those skills. For the kids who don't have those skills, it is a challenge and it is a challenge that requires time."
Spitzer continued to say schools no longer have the amount time to teach those skills that they once did. He suggested working on a better partnership between manufacturing and public education, as well as rethinking what it means to be partners in those fields.
The Workforce Investment Board will continue to work on ways to address the issues brought up during the conference.