CIRCLEVILLE — A local workforce development board is seeking participation of local employers to better understand needs regarding workers and training.

The Area 20 Workforce Development Board, comprised of Fairfield, Hocking, Pickaway, Ross and Vinton Counties, is conducting a study and looking for first-hand perspectives from those involved in business, workforce, education and the community on training needs, workforce system engagement and ways to build connections among regional partners.

“Workforce is the most critical part of community development,” Area 20 WDB Director Rick Szabrak said. “This study will help employers better understand how to attract and retain employees. It will help us when we talk to job seekers to let them know what training is needed for them to find a good, long-term career, and it will help our schools understand what programs to provide them. I’m hopeful we’ll see great participation from our local stakeholders.”

There will be a 90-minute industry and workforce learning session that is being facilitated virtually and will allow those that participate a chance to share their thoughts and ideas. Each of the five counties will have their own 90-minute work session.

Roxan Sigmon, program manager at OhioMeans Jobs Pickaway County, said it’s been tough on local businesses to find employees.

“What we did was hire a firm to do a comprehensive labor analysis to see what we might be lacking as far as training and what local businesses are needing,” Sigmon said.

“It’s a good collaboration between local business, job seekers, educators and our community partners. We want to do anything we can to put people back to work and help businesses find employees.”

Stakeholders interested in participating may contact Hannah Heimberger at Hannah.Heimberger@FairfieldCountyOhio.gov for additional information.

“I hear everyday from the employers that they just can’t find the workforce they’re needing,” Sigmon said. “When the pandemic hit, all the extra unemployment benefits, which have been needed for some people, haven’t helped the businesses with finding employees.”

Ryan Scribner, Pickaway Progress Partnership Executive Director and Area 20 Board of Directors member, said Area 20 secured some funds to facilitate the study to look at a number of factors across the region related to employment.

“They gather a lot of data on wage, benefits and pay rates that can be really helpful as far as equipping employers with benchmarking and understanding where they fit in the continuum of employers,” he said.

“We get asked about it all the time. This is one really good way to gather that info. We hope employers participate. There will be ways they’re asked to share what they’re doing with their employees. The more participation we get, the more reliable the report will be. They’re also looking at things that affect workforce availability like the housing market and trends around population growth.”

Scribner said the county has low unemployment, around 4.5 percent, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns earlier this year.

“It’s an interesting time where we’ve gone through a pandemic and gone through a big spike in unemployment and now, we’re back down to 4.5 percent unemployment rate,” Scribner said.

“Beyond that, we’ve learned there are a number of people who have left the workforce, like the aging population and other variables including parents who can’t get back to work because kids’ schools haven’t opened back up. That’s maybe not locally, but it’s happened across the region. The bottom line is we have a really low unemployment rate and yet we still have a lot of development and growth happening. There are a lot of opportunities for jobs and the challenge is helping employers identify and place people in those positions.”

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