Joe Aiken of the J.M. Smucker Co., from left, Martie Ann King of Massimo Zanetti, Rose Albino of J.M. Smucker Co., Col. Brett Reister, of the Joint Staff J6 and Andre Skinner of The Pruden Center were among the attendees at the Business Leaders Breakfast.
~Partnerships to Strengthen Workforce Top the Discussions~
Suffolk business leaders and Paul D. Camp Community College joined forces on Thursday, March 10, to discuss opportunities to strengthen the city’s workforce. At the forefront of the discussion was the need for employees with the skillsets and experience needed for today’s growing industries, which increasingly require technology savvy. Just as importantly, “soft skills” are crucial to both large and small companies and are often a missing link in the younger market.
Dr. Bill Aiken, PDCCC interim president, shared the college’s three-year strategic plan for a better trained workforce, which includes relevant programs, partnerships and productivity. “Paul D. Camp Community College is committed to working with area businesses to provide quality employees with the specific skills needed in our market,” he said.
Randy Betz, vice president of workforce development, shared examples of successful partnerships the college has fostered with Keurig Green Mountain and Newport News Shipbuilding.
Dr. Tara Atkins-Brady, vice president of student and academic development, highlighted existing and new areas of study the college offers, in addition to the soft skills training that PDCCC students receive. “Our programs incorporate workforce readiness, and emphasize important skills, such as punctuality, professionalism and safety in the workplace,” she said.
With many of the area’s top employers facing an aging workforce, leaders are looking ahead to train and hire new employees. Electrical and Instrumentation specialists are particularly hard to find. Good candidates are in short supply.
Martie Ann King with Massimo Zanetti stated, “Qualified and experienced Instrument Techs are among the most skilled and highest paid within the hourly workforce.” The group also stressed the need for candidates who prefer the technical field degree verses a traditional four-year college degree for techs and mechanics. Careers as instrumentation techs and maintenance mechanics, who specialize in manufacturing technology, are in high demand. Often, companies must use third party recruiters to fill vacancies. Many of these positions require career studies certificates or associate degrees that can be earned in as little as one to two years. “As in the case with Keurig Green Mountain, we built the credentials based on what that particular employer needed,” emphasized Atkins-Brady.
Other sought after professions include information technology, telecommunications and network/cyber security. Col. Brett Reister, Chief of Staff with the Joint Staff J6, said, “A lot of resources are being invested to support communications network defense and cyber security.”
Additionally, from an IT (Information Technology) perspective, many Government Service (GS) civilians who support the military are nearing retirement age; so, the Department of Defense (all Services) is looking for professionals with technical qualifications, certifications and technical background, not necessarily four-year degrees, to fill its workforce requirements. Though DoD often looks to grow their workforce internally, the department is always looking for new avenues to meet their technical challenges and requirements, including the use of a contractor workforce that comes from both large and small companies. Oftentimes, these contractors successfully compete for open GS positions.
In the high touch front, it is no surprise that substantial job growth in the healthcare sector will continue. However, Judy Raymond, executive director at Lake Prince Woods Retirement Community, revealed that home care nursing, which requires a unique set of skills, is expected to see a higher rate of growth due to changes in healthcare delivery and reimbursement.
“Paul D. Camp Community College will continue to reach out to the business leaders throughout our market,” says Dr. Renee Felts, vice president of institutional advancement. “Discussions and partnerships like this enable us to come together to positively impact our community and grow our economy.”
For more information about the next PDCCC Business Leaders Breakfast, contact Felts at (757) 569-6760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Alan Harris of PDCCC, from left, welcomes Andre Skinner and Mona Parker of The Pruden Center to the event.
Andre Skinner, director of The Pruden Center, shares his insights during the inaugural event.