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Workforce Development: Why it matters

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Not too long ago, Webster County was awarded the ACT WorkKeys certificate. This award highlighted that the county has some folks with not only the interest but also skills needed by companies in the current workforce. Moreover, this need for those skilled workers continues to grow each year. Having skilled workers is one thing; having a place to work is another. That is where GRO Marshfield helps out.

GRO Marshfield is an agency established to promote economic growth and improve the quality of life in Marshfield. “It is not just about the business. It’s about the community and the people who live here,” explains the President of GRO Marshfield, Duane Lavery. He and his team are about helping and finding ways to allow the community to flourish. “I’m often asked, ‘what is it I do?’ I tell them, ‘One of the main things I do is help new businesses come into town.’ But that is only one part of what I do. There are many other things involved in Economic Development,” Lavery says.

Lavery broke down what GRO Marshfield is about and its recent focus on workforce development. The number one issue companies face is the lack of a skilled workforce. He explained how this is not just the needs of current businesses but also future ones. Lavery illustrates, “Try building a house right now and find the trade workers. The carpenters, the masons, the plumbers who can lay down new piping. Call a local contractor, and they will tell you how hard it is to find somebody to come on-site and get something done.”

Trade schools are not a factor considering many are in the area, such as Ozarks Technical Community College, Midwest Tech Institute, or even Bryan University. In addition, they can teach or hone the skills in about two or four years, meaning less having to study and more time in the field. However, getting people interested or understanding what the job market needs in the first place might be the hurdle.

Lavery tells about a time he worked on a project and got an ice cream company to build a factory in a particular area. It provided over 1500 jobs, but when he went to the local high school to discuss the career opportunities, the students gave Lavery pushback. “'Mr. Duane, I don’t want to make ice cream.' I told them, You don’t make the ice cream; the machines make it. I need you to calibrate, program, maintain, and fix the machines, and that takes skill’ ”.

It might not sound appealing at first, but working for a factory or becoming a mason can be a fulfilling career. Not only are they essential for daily life, but they are also high-paying. These jobs can make an estimated $45,000 to $150,000 per year, starting with upward potential for more.

The need for skilled workers is not going away anytime soon. We all have a part to help with the success of workforce development. Lavery summarizes, "That's our job. Yours, mine, everyone's job is to help the business industry succeed. If the businesses don't succeed, people lose jobs, and if we lose jobs, we have bigger problems."

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