Impacting Talent: How to Develop Central Ohio’s Workforce

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The Columbus Chamber recently sat down with Kelly Fuller, director of workforce development, to discuss the upcoming Play to Work Golf Outing, as well as a number of talent-related topics. You can learn more about Fuller, the Chamber and its upcoming events by visiting Columbus.org.

Q: What is the Play to Work Golf Outing and how does it relate to the Columbus Chamber Foundation? How do they both serve the greater community?

Our Play to Work Golf and Tennis Outing will be held this year on May 13 at the New Albany Country Club. Last year’s inaugural event allowed us to share with our members and their guests the Chamber’s commitment to workforce development in our region. It really is an opportunity to enjoy a great time competing on a beautiful course and tennis courts, all while supporting the Chamber’s initiatives like ColumbusInternships.com and its quarterly series – the Experience Series – where experts share timely and critical best practices for sourcing, engaging and retaining talent.

Q: Why is workforce an integral piece of the Chamber’s external strategy?

Columbus is enjoying an incredible amount of growth and has moved to the top of many lists, including those that focus on lifestyle, tech centers, fashion, culinary, etc. As our region grows and industries along with it, the need for a qualified and ready workforce is critical to the attraction of new business and the retention of our existing base.

Identifying the workforce development entities in our community and connecting them to our business community is how we move the needle.

Q: What are the factors that impact workforce?

Columbus is growing and thriving but that does not mean that all of our communities are participating in – and benefiting from – this economy. We continue to see positions going unfilled. Our local employment rate is under 4 percent, which is better than the state as a whole, yet we know that many potential workers are not engaged.

Those with criminal backgrounds find it hard to gain opportunity; we are blessed with immigrants who bring skills and abilities and a desire to work. Yet, helping them demonstrate those skills and abilities in a new language is a challenge.

Getting to and from work is often a barrier for many of our Columbus neighbors, and connecting a workforce to employers using public transportation takes time. The good news is we have many great organizations making efforts to address these issues.

Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunity for the development of our city’s workforce in the future?

We are blessed in Central Ohio with some of the top colleges and universities in the nation; we have one of the leading public research institutions in The Ohio State University. In addition, Columbus State Community College continues to deliver pathways to success through degrees, certifications and customized training for businesses.

Our region also benefits from strong career and technical schools. My former employer, Eastland Fairfield Career & Technical Schools, serves 16 districts in three counties, as well as over 1,000 adult learners every year who are enrolled in full-time and short-term courses, ABLE, GED and ESOl classes. The infrastructure is in place to educate our community of learners at all stages of their lives.

Work-based learning experiences, apprenticeships and mentorship programs are extremely valuable to both the student and the host business or industry. The Chamber plays an integral role in connecting those program graduates to the business community.  

I really believe that a shift towards valuing certifications and credentials at the same level as two- and four-year degrees are imperative to our region’s continued success. Many of the unfilled jobs are in skilled trades in careers that pay livable wages and require training, but less than a college degree. We need to change the dialogue about jobs and education. A four-year, on-campus college experience is not necessary for every job in this economy. Helping our young people understand how they can best utilize their skills and abilities and navigate a career plan that considers ALL types of preparation is critical.

Q: How do you suggest Columbus Chamber members stay in the know on workforce trends?

This year, the Chamber kicks off its Experience Series, a collection of events dedicated to sharing the best practices and trends in workforce. Some of the topics will include sourcing, engaging and retaining talent. We will also continue to introduce our members to programs and pipelines of potential employees. Check our social regularly, as we work hard to keep our members and community informed of all the great things happening at the Chamber.  

So much of supporting our workforce climate is facilitating partnerships and connections, which is why I encourage all of our members to attend our signature events like the Play to Work Golf Outing, Retail Summit and the 96th Annual Clambake & Lobster Feast.

— The Columbus Chamber of Commerce offers news, information and other resources that are free and available to all businesses at columbus.org. —