Workforce drawing up five-year plan

PARKERSBURG – As the economy of the Mid-Ohio Valley continues to grow and change, the workforce Investment Board of the Mid-Ohio Valley has been working on a strategic plan for the next five years.

Joyce Okes, program director with the agency, spoke at Monday’s meeting of the Parkersburg Rotary Club at the Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg.

Over the past year, the board has been working to create a strategic plan for its nine-county region and beyond as the local economic picture changes and potentially grows, Okes said. The board covers the counties of Calhoun, Clay, Jackson, Mason, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood.

The board coordinates employment and training programs across the region. Formed as part of federal funding and mandates issued by the Workforce Investment Act, the local board works to ensure job seekers and employees have the skills needed by area employers. Types of activities provided include work readiness skills, classroom training, and on the job training.

Okes said the board in 2013 developed the strategic plan through a variety of methods, including quantitative analyses, county input sessions, employer surveys, interviews, targeted industry reviews and working to identify the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the local area.

Among its findings, the study work found there are 200,000 people living in the nine-county study area. It is a stable population with a high portion of children and older adults, but a decline in working age adults, Okes said.

The regional labor force includes 81,000 workers. There is 65 percent labor participation, meaning 13 of 20 adults are employed or looking for work. The study showed small business has been showing growth in the local area, she said.

“Increasing the size of our labor force is one of the issues we’re going to need to address as our economy rebounds,” Okes said.

Implementation of the five-year strategic plan has already started, Okes said. Its goals include building on targeted industries, retention and expansion of existing businesses, encouraging entrepreneurship, addressing workforce supply and demand and increasing labor participation.

The action teams are working on those issues and additional resources are being researched. The plan also calls for identifying connections with industries and coordinating with economic development and stage agencies.

“We’re trying to make sure we’re not duplicating, we’re coordinating,” she said.

As with any five-year plan, Okes said it will change and be updated as priorities and needs change. Among early aspects are coordination of services to employers and identifying needed skills and training opportunities.

“We’re working on identifying employers’ needs and their directions and communicating that to job-seekers,” she said.