Workforce improvement seen as key to attracting industry

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

“One of the problems is, if you ask a room full of parents ‘who wants their child to go to college,’ most of them will raise their hands. But the truth is we aren’t sending all our kids to college,” Bense said.

Ellis said that in Washington County, 75 percent of the graduates will not go to college. “We need to do a better job of providing that technical education or certification program for these students so they can get out of high school and earn a good living,” Ellis said.

Likewise, a skilled workforce is often a prerequisite for manufacturers to build a facility in a region.

“People aren’t looking at five-year plans anymore,” Ellis said. “They are looking 18 months down the road, and they want to know what you can do for them right now,” when it comes to providing things such as an suitable industrial site or a skilled workforce.

Ellis said there is likely to be a resurgence in manufacturing in the U.S., and to benefit from the resurgence Northwest Florida needs to begin planning now.

The council wants to start by initiating a dialog between public schools, colleges, universities and technical schools along with manufacturing leaders to start working toward the goal of providing essential workforce education, Ellis said.

“I’ve been told that if the students have a certain level of education, then they can be trained in other skills,” Ellis said. “It’s getting the students up to that level, and changing the perception that technical education is somehow lesser than college-oriented education, that we need to work on.”

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