By SARALYN NORKUS Banner Staff Writer
With the area continuing to see increased industrial growth, a major three-year workforce development initiative — Your Skills. Your Future. — was announced Friday.
The announcement was made by the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, along with business and civic leaders, educators and industry representatives.
“Our improving economy combined with the corresponding decrease in unemployment, existing industry expansion and an increase in new business prospects for our community, has highlighted the critical need for more workers with technical skills to meet future demands,” said Gary Farlow, president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
“Our goal is to create this workforce by educating the community that a well-paying career with a successful future is easily attainable and does not require massive student loan debt.”
From October 2015 to October 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found Cleveland had added the largest amount of new job opportunities among the nation’s 387 metropolitan areas.
The concept for “Your Skills. Your Future” was created about a year ago with the goal of helping connect existing industry opportunities to community members across Bradley County, as well as the immediate 11-county region. The message will stress that most skilled-trade jobs require only a two-year degree or certificate, which allows for little-to-no student loan debt.
With such a large amount of industry growth in Cleveland and Bradley County, the Chamber recognized through conversations with various companies that coming up with a skilled workforce was becoming a critical issue.
“One of the most important issues we hear from them is that many are still trying to do hiring. This is a way for us to help fill the pipeline for them and hopefully get some people into better paying jobs,” Farlow commented.
“Your Skills. Your Future” will serve to provide a variety of audiences with information to pursue postsecondary education and other resources such as financial aid, certifications and training. Their goal is to see those resources turn into long-term careers.
“The reality is there are immediate jobs available that are lifelong, sustainable careers. We want students, parents and adults looking for a change to understand the affordability of the training needed for these jobs as well as the attainability to taking the first steps to a bright and successful future,” said Bob McIntire, a business leader and chairman of the Cleveland Economic Development Council.
The initiative’s target audience includes school administrators and faculty, parents, prospective students, prospective employers and employees, underemployed workers, veterans, guests of the court system, elected officials and civic leaders, the general public and media.
“Workforce development and job creation is one of the most important issues in my district and our nation. A strong workforce not only helps to fill current jobs, but it also attracts future industries to our great state,” said Congressman Chuck Fleischmann. “This is why I am proud to support the efforts of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce and hope the community will be inspired to pursue technical career opportunities that are the backbone of our economy.”
By 2017, it is estimated that 2.5 million new, middle-skill jobs will be added to the workforce, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all job growth.
More information about the “Your Skills. Your Future” campaign can be found at www.yourskillsyourfuture.com. The website includes a career test for those who are interested as to what skilled labor job might be best suited for them.