LOCAL NEWS

Available talent top issue among local businesses

Recruiting and retaining qualified talent is the primary concern among employers today. In fact, site selection firms — consultants engaged by corporations to provide a variety of services to help with location of a new facility or relocating operations — will tell you the number one criteria for their clients is a community with the availability of skilled labor.

Like so many communities across Indiana and the Midwest, unemployment rates are near record lows. According to STATS Indiana, Montgomery County’s May unemployment rate was 2.4 percent, while the state as a whole was 2.8 percent. When one factors in that many economists would suggest an unemployment rate between 4-5 percent is considered “full employment,” and that national statistics show baby boomers across the country are retiring at an average of 10,000 per day, it is imperative communities look at collaborative and sustaining ways to build the future talent pipeline.

In his ongoing efforts to build a first-class city, Mayor Todd Barton hosted the first of what he hopes will be many stakeholder roundtables to discuss workforce challenges, as well as begin to identify ideas and sustainable programming to improve the local labor pool. 

“Based on discussions with the three school superintendents and many of our area employers, everyone agrees we must be more proactive at addressing this issue,” Barton said. “In doing so, we need to look at workforce development from a comprehensive approach that includes not only preparation at the K-12 level, but incumbent workers, trailing spouses and veterans.”

Stakeholders at the roundtable included representatives from nine area industry, a county commissioner, superintendents of Crawfordsville schools, North Montgomery schools, Southmont schools, representatives from Wabash College, Ivy Tech, WorkOne, Crawfordsville/Montgomery County Chamber and the city’s economic development consultant. 

“It’s really powerful to sit in a room with local employers, local schools and local government to see how we can improve our community and make a long-term difference for Crawfordsville,” said Scott Bowling, superintendent of Crawfordsville Schools.

Echoing a similar sentiment about the importance of this initiative, Tracy Mobley, site leader at Pace Dairy, “Workforce development is important because we’re trying to create a positive work environment and investing in the future. This community is the lifeblood of what we do now and what we will continue to do, so it’s important to support each other to ensure that future.”

Examples of work the group will undertake in the coming months include, identifying skills gaps and training needs from area employers, exploring best practice models, analyzing the current delivery infrastructure such as STEM programs in K-12, and certifications and other training offered by higher ed institutions, and discussing ideas for building awareness about industry in the community. 

“We all realize there is no quick fix, so it is my expectation this initiative becomes an integral component of our long-term economic and community development efforts,” Barton said.