Cumberland County continues to be the fastest-growing county in the commonwealth, and employers are searching for a skilled workforce to meet their demands now and in the future.
Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC) is committed to facilitating discussions between employers within the county and educational institutions to improve or create programs that prepare students for jobs. The goal here is to put students in the best situation to succeed and create jobs that will allow the county to thrive.
Laura Potthoff, CAEDC's Director of Business & Workforce Development, explains why workforce development initiatives are essential to CAEDC, along with what is being done for select high-demand fields.
What led CAEDC to develop strategies for Workforce Development?
As the economic development agency for Cumberland County, they are meet with businesses regularly to discuss retention and expansion. One thing they kept hearing about was the tight labor market and the need for employees in a variety of fields. It's difficult for businesses to relocate and expand here if they can't find the workers they need.
How did you determine which industries to focus on first?
CAEDC analyzed occupational gaps in key fields in the region, and that analysis led them to focus on Heavy Equipment, Advanced Manufacturing, and Healthcare specifically. CAEDC started by creating committees for each of those three focus areas. The committees were comprised of area business leaders in those fields and educational institution partners. These occupations have the highest demand for workers by 2024 and offer jobs that pay well.
What work is currently being done to focus on Heavy Equipment?
For Heavy Equipment, they kicked off a new program this summer for students in the region at Cumberland Valley High School. Students from four different school districts enrolled this year will learn about industry requirements, career pathways, and opportunities in the heavy equipment, transportation, and logistics industries. Participants will earn their OSHA 10 Safety Credential and First Aid and Safety Certification. Volvo Construction Equipment also offered a heavy equipment simulator for the program.
CAEDC also held an event in June with more than 20 employers in attendance, including excavator, construction, and paving companies to raise awareness about this program and the jobs available.
What's being done within the field of Advanced Manufacturing?
The Advanced Manufacturing Committee has been assisting Cumberland-Perry Area Vocational Technical School with a Robotics Engineering program. This class is currently full, with a waiting list for next year. In the fall of 2019, a pre-engineering and manufacturing program will begin at Cumberland Valley School District with dual-enrollment possibilities at institutions in the area that offer higher education. Possible careers include research and development at manufacturing facilities or mechanical, civil, and electrical engineers.
Finally, what work is underway for the focus on healthcare?
Healthcare is the latest focus area. Efforts will kick off in October at an event at Dickinson College. The event will highlight the collaboration between healthcare and educational partners with new and modified healthcare and technology programs. CAEDC is collaborating with the big players in healthcare in the region to help identify jobs and necessary skills.
This information will be shared with educational institutions who are interested in putting programs together and updating their curriculum to include technology and software skills.
Initial research has taught CAEDC that nursing isn't the only desired field within Cumberland County. There's also a high demand for cybersecurity and healthcare data interpretation for community wellness and insurance purposes.
They are also in the process of collecting information from retirement homes and assisted living facilities to ensure a broader understanding of the area's healthcare needs.
What has been the most significant success of these workforce efforts?
It's exciting to see a shift with theses educational institutions and to hear firsthand what employers need to address these skills gaps. It's refreshing to see businesses and competitors come together and collaborate to grow the pipeline of skilled employees in the region.
What does the future of workforce development look like for Cumberland County?
Potthoff believes that once they get these programs in place, their efforts will focus on encouraging employers to hire the students going through these programs and letting the educational institutions know of any shifts in technology. CAEDC also looks to expand these programs to allow adults who want to reskill and retool to enter these high-demand and good-paying occupations. Another future step would include looking at other barriers affecting workforce issues like transportation, housing, and childcare.
Learn more about CAEDC's workforce development initiatives and available programs at CumberlandBusiness.com/Workforce.