Workforce Development Summit addresses job training needs

Features Editor


What steps does Newton County have to take to create a pipeline of workers to fill local jobs? Business and industry leaders will take the stage to answer that question at the Annual Workforce Development Summit on April 17 at the newly constructed Newton College & Career Academy.

The event, by invitation only, is sponsored by the Newton County Chamber of Commerce and will bring together government agency heads, elected officials, and leaders in the fields of business, education, and economic development to address the broadening skills gap in the workforce.

Through discussion panels by business and industry experts, the summit will emphasize the need for connecting potential workers with job training programs, resulting in a workforce that will make Newton County more attractive to new industries and satisfy the employment needs of existing businesses, said Shannon Davis, director of business retention and expansion for the chamber.

Davis said the primary purpose of the summit is to pull together partners at the local, state and regional levels to discuss how to build business and industry in Newton County.

"The workforce is out there but we need to create those links," said Davis.

The summit is a partial outgrowth of a business expansion and retention survey administered by the chamber which revealed a lack of trained workers in Newton County.

A steering committee -- consisting of representatives from the school system, business and industry, colleges, and the department of labor -- examined the results of the survey, and developed the agenda for the summit.

"We all live in our own silos and so our efforts are to break down those silos and get everybody moving in the same direction, creating interagency synergies," said Davis.

Davis said there is a sector of unemployed people who have some training but could use more and there are jobs that industries are holding to fill.

Part of the solution is to better promote training programs that already exist at post-secondary institutions such as Georgia Perimeter College and Georgia Piedmont Technical College, said Davis.

"Bringing those to the forefront and making connections between business and industry and colleges is vital, because we know there's going to be huge skills gap coming when the baby boomers start retiring," said Davis.

To kick-off the Workforce Development Summit, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will participate in a ribbon cutting for the Newton College & Career Academy, a three-floor, 181,000- square-foot facility built by the school system and designed to educate up to 800 students on work ready skills.

Areas of study at the career academy include health care, cosmetology, early childhood education, public safety, finance, communications, marketing, engineering/manufacturing, culinary arts, computer systems, interactive media/web design, graphic design, video production, construction, agriculture, forestry and horticulture.

The school also features a work-based learning program, complete with a small business center. Georgia Perimeter College and Georgia Piedmont Technical College also will offer dual enrollment programs.

"We want to promote the shining example of the possibilities of a training college and career ready students," said Davis of the summit's location.


Newton Workforce Development Summit panelists

Mark Butler, commissioner, Georgia Department of Labor

Roger Harrison, senior vice president of economic development, Covington/Newton Chamber of Commerce

Gretchen Corbin, deputy commissioner, Georgia Department of Economic Development

Beth Herman, regional director, Atlanta Metro Region, Manpower

Larry Teems, acting president, Georgia Piedmont Technical College

James Woodward, chief executive officer/principal, Newton College & Career Academy

Candy Morris, human resources director, Nisshinbo Automotive

John Zegers, director, Centers of Innovation for Manufacturing