Champaign County businesses are struggling to find enough qualified, skilled employees to fill job openings. And local students need the education and skills to prepare for these in-demand career opportunities.
Local business and school representatives are working together to address both sides of this equation through the Champaign Business Advisory Council (BAC). The BAC complements workforce development efforts of the Champaign Economic Partnership, CEP Director Marcia Bailey said.
The Champaign-Madison Educational Service Center (ESC) formed the BAC about three years ago when a new state law called for school districts to form BACs, to build relationships between businesses and schools. The local BAC includes representatives of the five county school districts, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, the ESC, local businesses, and Ashley Cook, business liaison for the CEP.
Businesses active in the BAC are primarily in manufacturing, but the BAC is inviting more types of businesses to get involved, said Jill O’Neal, a BAC member and human resources manager for Weidmann Electrical Technology in Urbana.
“We welcome more business leaders to attend to provide their input in local workforce needs and how to enhance school curriculum to prepare students,” O’Neal said.
Scott DeLong, president of Champaign Residential Services Inc. (CRSI), has become an active member. He wants to help address the need for qualified job candidates in human services and health care. “I’m excited about the work we’re doing, and hopefully we can keep more students in the community after graduation.”
The BAC meets quarterly, with 2019 meetings scheduled at 1 p.m. June 26 at Bundy Baking Solutions, Sept. 5 at Champaign Residential Services Inc. and Dec. 5 at Graham High School.
O’Neal said that the BAC includes three active subcommittees:
· Business Relations, to strengthen the working relationship between businesses and schools
· Workforce Development, to address current and future workforce needs in the county
· Curriculum Development, to develop educational programs in local schools to prepare students for in-demand careers after graduation
Dan Kaffenbarger, ESC superintendent, said, “The BAC creates a line of communication and collaboration between the schools and businesses. Our short-term goal is to inform older students about job opportunities in the county. For the longer term, we’re looking at middle school and early high school students, to help them develop soft skills (such as work ethic and critical thinking) and provide curriculum that will give them the competitive advantage that employers are looking for.”
Businesses leaders interested in learning more about the BAC may call Kaffenbarger at the ESC, 937-484-1557.
Submitted by the Champaign Economic Partnership.