Tackling obstacles

First Posted: 1/21/2015

LIMA — Businesses in Lima need employees who can pass a drug test, get to work, and bring entry-level skills with them.

This workforce void isn’t something new and it’s not unique to the area. Businesses across the state and nation are hurting for a better and larger workforce, but Lima and Allen County are bringing together a “framework” to make it happen.

LINK Lima/Allen County is a framework that will host different programs to help local businesses thrive, said Doug Arthur, director of the Allen Economic Development Group Workforce Vision.

LINK Lima and its Workforce Advisory Council were officially launched on Wednesday, when 50 business owners and stakeholders gathered to discuss the challenge, the plan and the expectations.

“It’s the opportunity to do something we can all feel the impact of and measure,” Arthur said.

Supported by a grant from the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the idea for LINK started to form after AEDG representatives went around to local businesses and found an oft-repeated problem: the workforce, said CEO and President of AEDG, Jeff Sprague.

Businesses “can’t find the right people for the jobs they have,” he said.

The reasons why vary depending on the business and industry, but Sprague identified four major roadblocks: drug tests, transportation for employees, child care, and lack of entry-level skill sets.

The grant, which supplies $121,000 a year for two years, focuses on entry level employment, Sprague said. The council will first tackle workforce issues in manufacturing, but plans to branch out to other industries from there.

The first phase of the grant, which ends in July, involves implementing and starting the framework, Sprague said. Phase two, from July 1 to June 30, 2016, involves putting local people into a job or workforce pipeline, which may begin with education, training or employment.

After 2016, Sprague is hoping the program will sustain itself and that businesses will be willing to invest in it to get a better workforce.

For now, the focus is wholly on the businesses; they are the customer and it’s all about what they want and need, Arthur said.

When the grant is over, the program will continue, it’s what Sprague calls a “long-term marathon,” not a sprint.

In 10 years, Eric Davis, coordinator of strategic workforce development at AEDG, said the area will have a “dynamic workforce stream.”

It “will be held up as an example of how you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and make yourself better” as a city and county, he said.

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