Chamber hears about manufacturer’s council

Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 10:50 AM.

CHIPLEY — The pool of qualified skilled employees needed to fill key manufacturing positions is shrinking, and that is a problem a regional manufacturing council hopes to solve.

The Washington County Chamber of Commerce members heard a presentation from members of the Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council during Thursday’s meeting at Northwest Florida Community Hospital.

“It is predicted that more than 3,400 people will be retiring from regional manufacturing positions in the near future,” said Jennifer Grove, workforce development coordinator for Gulf Power. “After a survey of regional schools and technical centers, it was determined that there are about 860 workers being prepared to fill those 3,400 jobs. Clearly we have got some work to do there.”

Grove, of Panama City, is working with the manufacturer’s council on loan from Gulf Power to help with workforce development, spoke on the importance of manufacturing jobs to the regional economy, and the potential for good careers for students with industrial certifications.

“We all get to live in a place where millions of people wish they could live, and we want to provide jobs so our children and grandchildren can stay close to home, if not in the same city, then at least in the region,” Grove said. “Close enough they can visit but not so close you have to do all their laundry,” she added, joking.

While there is not a lack of applicants for jobs at Gulf Power, there is often a lack of qualified applicants applying for the jobs — which is a problem for manufacturers across the country as well as across the region.

“In my job, I focus on workforce development for the energy industry, and it is a struggle to find employees who have not only the job skills, but the soft skills as well, such as the habit of showing up for work every day on time,” Grove said.

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