February 18, 2020 | Spotlight

Albany-area leaders, Institute launch workforce development strategy

Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker and Albany City Manager Sharon Subadan discuss implementing a comprehensive workforce development strategy introduced Feb. 18. Both are members of the steering committee that helped prepare the plan with technical assistance from the Institute.

Writer: Roger Nielsen

Albany-area employers, educators and government leaders are implementing an Albany-Dougherty County workforce development strategy to better align educational and job readiness efforts with the community’s workforce needs.

The comprehensive workforce strategy was unveiled Tuesday by the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission (EDC) and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government worked with the chamber, the EDC and dozens of community stakeholders over the past eight months to develop the plan, titled Albany-Dougherty County Works!

More than 100 community members, employers, job seekers, students and educators participated in the information-gathering and needs assessment phases of plan development, guided by a diverse, 20-member steering committee working with Institute of Government faculty and staff.

The workforce development strategy specifies short- and long-term action strategies that address three key priorities the community identified as critical to developing a skilled workforce to support existing business and attract new jobs: coordinate existing workforce resources, enhance the youth talent pipeline and strengthen career support for the region’s adult workforce.

Implementing the action plan will help Albany-Dougherty County become better-positioned to remain competitive in the future economic landscape, according to Justin Strickland, EDC president and steering committee member.

“As the center for business and culture in Southwest Georgia, it’s vital that Albany-Dougherty County be adequately prepared for the coming trends in workforce development in order to lead the region into the next era of economic and community development,” Strickland said. “The extensive research conducted through this planning process has resulted in the necessary directives to accomplish that goal.”

Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, points out that workforce needs and career skills consistently top the list of challenges to all businesses. “The Albany Area Chamber, as well as our member organizations, is committed to the long-term initiatives that strengthen Albany’s position as the driver of our region’s growth,” she said. “Talent creation and retention are foundational to broad-based prosperity.”

The steering committee, with technical assistance from the Institute of Government, distilled information from stakeholder input sessions, employer presentations, labor market data and similar sources to help develop strategies and action plans designed to help strengthen the area’s skilled talent pool. The Institute will continue working with community leaders to provide technical assistance in the implementation phase, according to Greg Wilson, Workforce Development and Economic Analysis unit manager.

“Establishing an effective workforce development program is a long-term proposition. It takes time and hard work to make this a success,” Wilson said.

Steering committee member Chris Hatcher understands the importance of working together from a unified workforce development strategy. As CEO of the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy (4C Academy), Hatcher administers an educational program providing 14 different career pathways for hundreds of high school students in Dougherty and surrounding counties.

“From an economic development standpoint, workforce and talent development is critical to our success,” Hatcher said. “It’s very important for our community in order for it to grow and prosper.”

Stakeholders in Albany and Dougherty County have already volunteered to spearhead specific action initiatives described in the plan. For example, the steering committee’s priority group in charge of coordinating existing resources is already recruiting Albany-area marketing companies and IT professionals to develop a marketing plan and website, according to steering committee member Brianna Wilson, owner and CEO of Southern Point Staffing.

“I’m passionate about this,” Wilson said. ”The workforce development strategy will have a big impact on Albany, and it’s going to have a big impact on the surrounding area as well.”