KINGWOOD — A new collaboration between educators and business is aimed at preparing Preston County’s workforce for where the jobs are.
The Preston County Chamber of Commerce, Preston County Schools and Career Readiness West Virginia are collaborating on the project, which has also taken a new spin necessitated by the coronavirus.
Chamber Director Kristy Ash and Preston Schools Superintendent Steve Wotring said a workforce development committee was created after last year’s state of the county event.
“The goal for that committee was to train a competent workforce by training our population for new and existing job opportunities,” Ash said.
Then they learned about Career Readiness West Virginia. The program is grant-funded and free. Frank Vitale is president and CEO of Forge Business Solutions, which developed and manages Career Readiness.
Vitale said the program started last year with a grant from Mountain State Educational Services Cooperative, with the aim of working with educators at all levels and businesses to see what skills businesses need in employees.
“Our hope is ultimately that just by talking to each other, our employers and our educators can remain on the same page,” Vitale said.
So far 21 counties are participating in the program. Normally the process begins with a public stakeholders meeting. But because COVID-19 has restricted in-person meetings, Preston’s initial fact gathering is being done through an online survey.
The survey is at surveymonkey.com/r/G2LCBQ7 and will close at 11 p.m. May 1. Any employer who hires people from Preston County is invited to complete the survey.
Using the information, Forge will compile a summary report, which will be given to the chamber and schools, and posted on the Career Readiness website. Forge will use global, state and national data to give context to the local survey, in the report.
“Recommendations are primarily wrapped around initiatives or programs the community can do themselves,” Vitale said.
For example, job site tours and job shadowing are more likely to attract students to a career than just reading about them, Vitale said. And job fairs and reverse job fairs are other good ways to connect employers and students. A virtual job fair is also being looked at.
The chamber committee discussed some of those things, Ash said, and sponsored a job fair earlier. Now it hopes to learn more to connect Prestonians with jobs.
“This just kind of fell into place with what we’re doing,” Ash said.