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Needs of work force to be studied

July 17, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County leaders hope a $50,000 study of local work force development and education resources that gets under way this month will leave them with a road map to meet employment needs.

The Franklin County Area Development Corp. announced in February it would use a state grant to fund an assessment of local employers' needs from the work force.

The agency hired Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, an Ann Arbor, Mich., company, this month to analyze demographics and growth trends and survey employers, workers and students.

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Leaders from local businesses and schools, including Wilson College, Penn State Mont Alto, Hagerstown Business College, T.B. Woods, Summit Health, Letterkenny Army Depot and the Chambersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, have met regularly to hammer out exactly what they want the study to cover.

The group met again Tuesday to hear what Ed Strong, senior partner of CSW, had in mind before starting on the project.

The goal is to keep the local work force desirable to new and current employers by ensuring local residents have the skills that employers need, said L. Michael Ross, president of the FCADC.

To do this, the study will look at the county's education and work force development resources, including county high schools, training schools and secondary education options. It will also address employer expectations for education and identify the gaps between the resources and expectations.

Strong said similar studies have found that employers in the information technology sector see knowledge of sales as an important skill for their workers.

"That was powerful information for a community college as they looked at curriculum development," Strong said.

Strong and Terry Molly, president of Leaders in Excellence Inc., which is partnering with CSW on the project, will outline short-term goals for the county to bridge the gaps.

"We want to produce a product that will be useful to you in the future," Strong said.

"I think the project we are working on has to result in steps achievable in the short run - things you can take on when we leave," Strong said.

Strong said he expects to complete the first part of the study by early August, which will include collecting data from the schools and determining job placement rates.

He expects to finish a demographic analysis and study of industry growth trends, including the areas of manufacturing, agriculture, retail, and health care and human services, by late August.

In September, surveys and focus groups with workers, students and employers will begin to see what needs are being met and where there are holes.

Strong expects to have a final report ready by the end of October.

The study comes as the region continues to recover from jobs lost due to the downsizing of Letterkenny Army Depot and the recent economic downturn, while at the same time successfully courting three major companies to build distribution centers that will ultimately create 2,000 jobs in the Interstate 81 corridor.

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