Dynamic Workforce Development in Ohio County, KY

Dynamic Workforce Development in Ohio County, KY Main Photo

8 Jan 2021


Ohio County Economic Development Alliance (OCEDA) has made workforce development a priority.  “Kentucky has aggressive workforce solution programs,” OCEDA Executive Director, Jodi Ashby says. “Ohio County shares a labor market area with both the 3rd and 4th largest cities in the Commonwealth. We’re fortunate to have wonderful resources to help build a skilled labor force for any business or industry.”

Ashby continues, “KCTCS, GRADD, The Kentucky Career Center, Ohio County High School, Ohio County Area Technology Center, and the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet have given us ample tools to attract new business and industry, as well as help existing industries expand with a skilled and ready-to-work workforce.”

Two prominent partners in OCEDA’s ongoing mission are workforce development professionals, Bill Sandell and Matthew Bartlett of The Kentucky Career Center. Here are some of the valuable programs their offices provide.

The Office of Employer and Apprenticeship Services

“The Office of Employer and Apprenticeship Services, (OEAS), is a division of Kentucky’s Department of Workforce Investment which is housed in the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet,” Workforce Development Consultant, Bill Sandell explains. 

“We offer a whole host of services to businesses and organizations in Kentucky to help grow companies and improve workforces. We work in conjunction with local partners in each local workforce area of the state to provide these resources and help our communities prosper.”

OEAS resources include programs like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a program that provides a federal tax credit of up to $9600 when a business hires an individual who faces barriers to employment. Those individuals include veterans, SNAP recipients, justice involved individuals, and more. That program can save a business thousands of dollars while helping it develop a diverse workforce of hard working individuals.

Another program offered is The Federal Bonding program in which a business can receive a $5000 Fidelity Bond for “at-risk”, hard-to-place job seekers. That category includes justice-involved individuals, those in recovery, people with poor credit, and those facing other obstacles to being hired or promoted. The bond covers the first six months of employment at no cost to the job applicant or the employer and it may be extended an additional six-months at no cost as well. Its aim is to give employers the peace of mind they need to give prospective hires a second chance. 

“Federal Bonding has been around since the 1960s and has been extremely successful,” Sandell explains. “Less than 1% of the bonds have ever been filed upon.”

In addition to employment initiatives, OEAS provides access to short-term training opportunities like On the Job Training (OJT) and Incumbent Working Training as well as long-term programs like KY FAME and Registered Apprenticeship.

Last but not least, Kentuckians who wish to broaden their career readiness can access WIN Learning online at no cost. Two worthwhile credentials are The National Career Readiness Certification and the Kentucky Essential Skills Certification. Those credentials allow employers to feel confident they’re hiring applicants who are career ready and have the basic essential skills to be successful in any job. 

In addition, Kentucky offers a free job board called Focus Talent to help businesses recruit the perfect candidate.

“There are so many resources available to Ohio County businesses and individuals and this is especially important as we recover from the pandemic,” Sandell says. “Many businesses are struggling right now and these resources are here to help them get back on their feet.”

Equus Workforce Solutions

Equusworks, serving as Direct Service Provider from funds provided by the Green River Workforce Development Board, partners with Owensboro Community and Technical College, Henderson Community College, Adult Education, Vocational Rehabilitation, local economic development, and other social service agencies. They offer on-the-job training to employers in Ohio County.

"The program pays 50% of a new employee’s wages for up to six months,” Director, Matthew Bartlett explains.

“To qualify, the business and position must be in a high demand sector as defined by the state and local workforce development board, such as healthcare, construction, transportation and logistics, business and IT, and advanced manufacturing.”

Bartlett explains that typically, those who participate are drawing unemployment or were laid off through no fault of their own. This training program helps the job-seeker obtain employment with a life-sustaining wage while potentially helping employers save thousands of dollars per employee.

In addition, they offer one-on-one career coaching to jobseekers and students to help them find a career path with a sustaining wage. 

“We use software like Traitify, which is an online personality and career assessment tool, along with our knowledge of local job openings and connections with local employers,” Bartlett explains. “We see great results with both short-term programs and specialized associate degrees.” 

The Green River Local area is fortunate in that they have two community colleges that work hard to ensure the workforce is trained in relevant programs with high graduation rates. This is reflected through OCTC’s Tech X program and HCC’s nursing program. Both lead to careers with a life sustaining wage.

The Kentucky Career Center can advertise a business’s open positions on the Facebook page, as well as the KCC website and the state’s online job board. Equusworks does its best to help recruit qualified candidates from those job seekers who contact the Kentucky Career Center requesting assistance.

“The people of Ohio County work hard and deserve a living wage to sustain their families,” Bartlett adds. “Low wages sometimes force workers to look to other counties for employment. Employers can sometimes save money through state and federal programs, like WIOA, to help offset a higher starting pay rate.”

Equusworks can also assist with Incumbent Worker Training, which provides both workers and employers the opportunity to build and maintain a quality workforce, and increase both the employees’ and company’s competitiveness. It is a type of work-based training and upskilling designed to ensure that employees of a company can acquire the skills necessary to retain employment and advance within the company, or to acquire the skills necessary to avert a layoff. 

In addition to skilled workers, Bartlett is a believer in workforce diversity. “Workforce diversity brings multiple perspectives to the table. It’s important to sometimes tackle an issue from different angles in order to achieve the desired outcome. It has been proven that a diverse workforce is a more productive workforce”

He continues, “We attempt to assist people from all backgrounds, especially those with barriers to employment. Part of WIOA law emphasizes serving hard-to-serve populations. This means that someone may be homeless, be a high school dropout, speak limited English, have a criminal background and everything in between.”

A Typical Equusworks Success Story:

Joe came into the Kentucky Career Center after being laid off from his previous employer of 7 months. Joe’s previous employment was specialized in Surface Mining, making his job search challenging. He searched for stable employment earning a sustaining wage to no avail. Career Coach Melissa Roberts reached out to a local construction company about an On-the-Job Training Contract. They agreed and hired Joe as a Heavy Equipment Operator making $19.00 per hour. An OJT was needed as the equipment Joe would be operating was different from the equipment he had operated in his previous position. 

Joe stated “Melissa really helped me during a tough time trying to find a job. I really appreciate Melissa checking on me and my job every month while I was in the program.”

Though the pandemic has posed a challenge, Equusworks made quick adjustments that include meeting one-on-one with jobseekers online and by phone.

For Additional Information and Support

Please contact Ohio County Economic Development Alliance (OCEDA) 

Call: (270) 298-4496 or visit them online.