As I was preparing to start my term as the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman, I thought a great deal about our business community, the challenges it’s facing, and how the chamber could help. One of the toughest challenges that became top of mind was the workforce gap.
Workforce is a big piece of the economic development puzzle and it’s the number one reason companies choose Cobb and expand here. The chamber and its economic development initiative, SelectCobb, have strong strategies in place to build our talent pipeline. For many years the chamber has been a leader in the workforce space assisting businesses through strong advocacy efforts and programs like the Cobb Workforce Partnership and Industry Councils.
The 2020 global pandemic created workforce challenges across all industries. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been capturing the statistics and trends related to the nation’s workforce. According to their research, there are just 66 workers for every 100 open jobs. The industries with the highest number of job openings are transportation, health care, food service and hospitality. These industries have a major presence in Cobb and the metro area.
It's clear that our business community has pressing needs that deserve solutions right now. One of the first initiatives I started in my year as chamber chair was to establish a Workforce Taskforce. This taskforce has been working for the past six months as a subset to the Cobb Workforce Partnership. The taskforce has engaged in a dialogue to learn the gaps and shortfalls businesses are experiencing and develop possible solutions. One of the biggest takeaways we’ve collectively discovered is that Cobb has ample training resources and educational programs available to businesses right now. The problem is awareness – not many businesses know about these resources or how they can be their solution to their workforce challenges.
For my column this month, I’d like to highlight the workforce tools available right here in Cobb, right now.
Online Resources and Events
The Cobb Chamber’s Workforce Taskforce has gathered resources to address workforce recruitment, employee retention, employee recognition and creating a positive workplace culture. All of these resources are housed in one convenient spot on the Chamber’s website: www.cobbchamber.org/workforce.
This spring the workforce taskforce launched a new event series, the HR Roundtable. Each quarter, the group meets for an educational lunch-and-learn event to discuss an array topics such as recruitment, retention, leadership development, labor law and regulation, and more. The next event is in September.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into the U.S. Chamber’s workforce development research, go online and search for the America Works Data Center.
Programs and Resources at WorkSource Cobb
WorkSource Cobb is a workforce provider in Marietta that assists individuals and companies with their workforce needs. Through federal funding, the WorkSource Cobb team provides educational and training resources to cultivate Cobb’s qualified labor force pipeline. For more information about the programs detailed here, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (770) 528-4300.
Incumbent Worker Training
The IWT program is designed to improve the skills of employees and the competitiveness of employers. Classroom or work-based learning may be provided through an education provider of the employer’s choice, on- or off-site, remotely where feasible and/or in-person. Training must be a minimum of 40 hours.
IWT is a reimbursement program funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act under the administration of WorkSource Cobb. The reimbursement process starts once the training has been completed. The maximum funding per participant is $7,000 and is based upon fund availability.
On the Job Training
OJT provides reimbursements to employers to help compensate for the costs associated with skills upgrade training and loss of productivity time to train newly hired employees. OJT can assist employers who are looking to expand their business and need additional staff trained with specialized skills. It is a great opportunity to bring on employees that are eager to learn new skills.
The OJT program is funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act under the administration of WorkSource Cobb. OJT is reimbursed at 50% of the new employees’ salary. The maximum funding per participant is $8,000 based upon availability of funds.
WEX is an opportunity for businesses to help shape Cobb’s future workforce by providing valuable work experience for young adults (16-24 years of age). WorkSource Cobb pays all wages and workers’ compensation insurance while interested companies provide real-life work experience. The program is designed to engage eligible Cobb County young adults in work-based training that will improve their basic work skills, gain exposure to the world of work and provide meaningful work experiences needed to obtain and/or advance in employment.
WorkSource Cobb offers no-cost on-site interviews to local businesses to assist with talent sourcing. Businesses have access to recruitment assistance which may include free job postings and job fairs; candidate recruitment, screening, and selection assistance from our work-ready talent pool; and access to its state-of-the-art Mobile Career Center.
Moving Forward, Working Together
Right now, business owners need our patronage and support. Your favorite retail shops, restaurants and small businesses most likely have job openings and there just aren’t enough people to fill them. You can help by promoting their job openings within your network and connecting them to our chamber. The Chamber’s Industry Councils and Small Business and Entrepreneurship event series enables professionals to make valuable connections that can foster business growth.