Workforce improvement seen as key to attracting industry

Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 05:22 PM.

Bense is president of GAC Contractors in Panama City and served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1998-2006. Ellis is a founding board member. He is manager of West Point Home in Chipley and serves on the Washington County School Board.

Chipola College and Washington County Chamber of Commerce are charter members of the council.

Helping manufacturing companies grow is the aim of the council, Ellis said, which consists of representatives from area employers, educational institutions and economic development and workforce organizations.

The group has been meeting since January to discuss how existing manufacturers can be more successful and how to attract more companies to the region.

The result of those meetings is the formation of the council, which will help companies work together to compete in a global marketplace with a special emphasis on having a skilled workforce.

“We have to change the image of technical education,” Bense said. “There is that impression that students who go to a technical campus are not as successful as their college-bound counterparts, but technical jobs are good paying jobs.”

Bense said certified automotive technicians can earn $70,000 a year, for example. “A lot of the jobs begin at $30,000, and go up from there,” he said. Likewise, most skilled manufacturing positions that pay well above minimum wage require math and science knowledge as well as practical mechanical ability.

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