Highland County commissioners review area workforce development proposal
Pictured (l-r) are Highland County commissioners David Daniels, Brad Roades and Terry Britton. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
In a brief meeting Wednesday, Sept. 6, Highland County commissioners Terry Britton, David Daniels and Brad Roades discussed a new workforce development proposal and took care of routine county business.
Due to the Labor Day holiday on Monday and the Highland County Fair taking place throughout the week, the agenda was short, with the meeting lasting under 15 minutes.
Britton said that the commissioners office received information about the Ross County Regional Workforce Development Program and would be referring it to Highland County Economic Development Director Julie Bolender for further review.
“It looks like a pretty good program Ross County’s trying to get started as a regional workforce program,” Britton said.
As noted by Britton and the proposal letter, the program would serve Highland, Ross, Pike, Fayette, Pickaway, Jackson and Vinton counties. Its listed objective is to “train a qualified workforce for existing and projected employment demands of regional employers,” with a focus on “non-degree, certificate-based programs” to develop “skills that can immediately be added to the regional workforce” based on employers’ needs.
Some of the industries or areas targeted, according to the letter, are manufacturing, health care, skilled trades, CDL, general career readiness programs, company leadership and industry instructors.
“Due to the existing commuting patterns of current and potential employees in the region, we are proposing a hub and spoke model of employee training with the Ross County center serving as the hub and the satellite locations serving as the spokes,” the program letter says. “Many of the employees in the region travel to Chillicothe, Circleville. Washington CH and Jackson. One of the impediments to growing our overall workforce in the region and state is reliable transportation. The plan is built around the idea of moving as few people as possible on a daily basis.”
The letter is proposing a “hub center” in Ross County for workforce development-based instruction and “satellites” in Highland and Jackson counties to be used as additional training sites.
“Instruction will be provided as a combination of trained teachers from local CTCs [career and technology centers] and colleges as well as field-trained instructors from local employers,” the proposal says. “The objective would be to collaborate with education and employers to provide the highest-quality training experience for participants.”
As proposed, that instruction would be for both high school students as well as current or prospective employees who need training in a certain field.
According to the letter, organizers are hoping to collaborate with county commissioners in the areas served by the program, as well as area colleges, school districts, Educational Service Centers and Career and Technology Centers; Job and Family Services agencies; and businesses/employers in all participating counties.
“I think that [Ross County Commissioner] Jack Everson has been working on that, and I think that he made a presentation to the workforce group that's been meeting here in Highland County several months ago,” Daniels said.
As previously reported, Highland County has taken similar steps toward workforce development in the past few years. In November 2021, commissioners, Bolender and other local partners announced plans for the “county’s first-ever brick and mortar workforce development center” in the Village of Greenfield, which opened in October 2022. According to the Highland County website, it is a “state-of-the-art workforce development center where employers and employees can gather resources, gain credentials or certifications and participate in a wide variety of trainings. Our workforce stands ready to fulfill the needs of our employers, and our county stands ready to lend support.”
Also established is the Highland County ACCESS (Alignment of Community Connections for Employer and Student Success) program, headed by former area superintendent Tim Dettwiller and founded by the Highland County Workforce Leadership Council. That council includes representatives from Southern State Community College, Community Action, the Economic Development Office, the Chamber of Commerce, GRIT [Growing Rural Independence Together], Fairfield Local Schools, the Village of Greenfield and the Southern Ohio ESC.
According to a presentation by Dettwiller to commissioners last year, the goal of the Highland County ACCESS for “schools, businesses and community agencies in Highland County” to have open communication and to promote incentivized learning; students graduating with work exposure and experience leading them to informed career choices upon graduation; businesses making connections with potential future employees; and community partners providing clarity, leading to better utilization of their resources by schools and businesses.
“We've already got our workforce program in Highland County going,” Britton said Wednesday. “But we're willing to take a look at it and see what they’ve got [in Ross County].”
In other discussion:
• Britton announced that Highland County will be hosting a regional County Commissioners Association of Ohio meeting Oct. 16 from 9:30 a.m.-1:15 p.m. at the East End Overlook Retreat at Rocky Fork Lake.
“CCAO had contacted us a week or so ago about a regional meeting with all the members in our area,” Britton said. “It’s a review of the budget, and we have been selected to host that for the Southwest Region.
“All the surrounding counties are invited. We'll have a meeting down there with CCAO, and we'll be talking about all the good things in the budget.”
• Commissioners noted that the Highland County Fair was underway and praised the Fair Board for another successful event.
“The Fair Board does a pretty good job, year in and year out, of putting on a good fair that has lots to do for a lot of people in Highland County,” Daniels said. “It gives people an opportunity to come together and learn a little bit about agriculture, and a lot of times, you just learn a little bit about your next-door neighbor that you haven't seen a long time sitting along the bench someplace.
“I know that the fair’s not over — there’s still plenty of time left to go in it — but I want to congratulate the Fair Board on, once again, putting on another good show in Highland County.”
Britton added that the Fair Board “works really hard, and a lot of times they don't get the credit that is due.”
• Commissioners approved an addendum to the Community-Based Corrections Subsidy Grant Agreement among commissioners, the Highland County Probation Office and the State of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Highland County Probation Director of Programming & Clinical Services Tonya Sturgill said that this is their “same grant that we usually have, just with a five-percent increase.
“This is our third one of these,” Sturgill told commissioners. “The first one, they forgot a very important part of our grant — they were unsure about the TCAP [Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison], and so they forgot the paperwork.
“They added that, and we did it again. Then they came back and said once everything was finalized with the budget that they were going to give all of the departments a five-percent increase, so what we are accepting today is that five-percent increase.”
• Britton said that Ohio first lady Fran DeWine has reached out to their office, “letting us know that probably there'll be a representative come around to talk to us about partnering again and reaching out to the children in our county” to promote Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ohio.
DeWine launched the program in Highland County in March 2020 in a ceremony at the Hillsboro Library, and it is open to all children ages 5 and under in the state of Ohio. Participating children receive a free book each month from birth to age 5. For more information, or to enroll, go to: https://ohioimaginationlibrary.org.
In other action, commissioners approved the following items, each by a 3-0 vote:
• A 63-month lease contract with Canon Solutions America, Inc. for a copier for the Tax Map office.
• Tthe execution of a memorandum of agreement for deposit of public funds between Merchants National Bank and the Highland County Treasurer’s Office for Aug. 20, 2023-Aug. 19, 2028.
“I think the treasurer has been pretty pleased with the response and service that we've been getting from them,” Daniels said.
Britton agreed, saying the bank has “done a nice job for us.”
• A resolution for an additional appropriation from unappropriated funds to the Hi-TEC Capital Improvement – Other Expense in the amount of $50,000.
• A resolution for a budget modification within the 2770 Prison Diversion Fund in the amount of $137.
• A resolution for an additional appropriation from unappropriated funds to Repair MVL – Materials in the amount of $45,353.25.
• A resolution for an additional appropriation from unappropriated funds to Sheriff Donation in the amount of $45,000.