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WIRED: New York December 21, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, WIRED, Workforce.
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The Finger Lakes WIRED initiative awarded $145,476 in training grants to 14 businesses:

Monroe County: SenDEC Corp., $18,000; Magnus Education LLC, $13,910; Amdex Computer Inc., $12,905; Riverside Automation, $12,000; Micro Systems Corp., $7,878; Reflexite, $4,900; Genesee Group, $4,648.

Livingston: Hurricane Technologies, $6,189; ARKEMA Inc., $1,120.

Ontario: Tariff Affiliates Inc., $14,286; Surmotech Inc., $6,215; CTC Online, $1,600.

Wayne: IEC Electronics, $3,610.

Wyoming: Steel & O’Brien, $38,215.

I wish that descriptions of the traning grants were published, but congratulations to the grant recipients nonetheless!


WIRED: Indiana plans unveiled December 20, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, WIRED, Workforce.
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The White County Economic Development director, Connie Neininger, and Purdue WIRED project director, Mark Smith, presented an overview of the Indiana WIRED program to the White County Commissioners:

[The WIRED project] has as its goals the support of local and regional entrepreneurship, preparing business for the aging population and mature workforce while equipping mature workers for jobs and building innovation and job growth in the industries of advanced manufacturing, advanced materials and agribusiness, food production and technology.

“We need to leverage all these assets; that’s what this grant is about,” said Smith. “It’s important to build networks; we’re trying to find the best ideas so everyone can use them.”

Neininger said asset mapping will be a focus of the group meetings in early 2007 so that through this sharing, White County, for example, might learn of a program in Tipton County that’s making it easier for entrepreneurs to get started. That idea then might translate to have the same impact here at home. Then, WIRED grant funds help make the project a reality.

But more research and information is needed so that White County can best use the funds it has available and part of that will come through public meetings over the next several months said Neininger.

WIRED: Indiana staff hire December 20, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Innovation, WIRED, Workforce.
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The Purdue University Technical Assistance Program hired Christy Bozic as its manager of business innovation.  Ms. Bozic will be funded by WIRED for the first three years of her position.

Dave McKinnis, TAP Director: “Christy will be responsible for helping manufacturers with product development, manufacturing processes, supply-chain development, strategy development, business management and other related issues. She also will work closely with economic development leaders, work force development organizations, governmental offices and university contacts to help companies create and implement their plans for innovative practices.”

Bozic: “The biggest mistake companies make is thinking that they have to move oversees to reduce cost.  There are new, innovative ways to use the incumbent work force. Retraining and keeping new graduates in-state are key.”

Additional summary of manufacturing-workforce issues December 19, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Workforce.
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From English as a Second Language to skills shortages to marketing to the next generation of potential workers, this monthly email newsletter from WorkforceUSA.net (which I believe is free) covers all the bases…some of which I’ve already discussed on the blog but others that I have not reviewed.  Articles, resource materials on these topics are available by the link.

Statistical comparison of major metro areas December 19, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Research, Workforce.
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Houston Strategies referred me to this well-done compilation by the St. Louis, Missouri-based East-West Gateway Council of Goverments, of data comparing St. Louis to different metro areas around the nation in terms of our many demographic points – education, age, race, income, etc.  – using the latest available data.

If you are interested in keeping up with the Jones (or at least benchmarking your community against them!), this looks like a good resource.

Initial media coverage of Skills Commission report December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Media, Workforce.
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The AP story is on the wire, and it’s rather comprehensive – as is the report:

The group is proposing that high school end at 10th grade for many students and that teacher pension plans be scrapped for other benefits such as higher pay and 401(k)s.

The proposals, which likely will be viewed as radical by some, were presented by a decidedly establishment group that includes two dozen ex-Cabinet secretaries, school officials and business executives, along with top government leaders from the major political parties.


Indiana: Investing in workplace literacy December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Workforce.
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The nasty little secret that we must address in America is that many of our workers – even some well-paid workers – do not possess basic workplace literacy skills. So says a study, “A Demand-Side Strategy to Meet Indiana’s Workforce Basic Skills Challenge” (Full Report, Executive Summary), that the Indiana Chamber of Commerce published in January 2005.

The study states that 50% of our adult workforce has low literacy skills, meaning that they have a hard time with these tasks:

Skills Needed to Get a Job

  • Read a want ad and complete a written application
  • Talk about skills, abilities, accomplishments, likes and dislikes
  • Answer and ask questions

Skills Needed to Survive on a Job

  • Follow oral and written directions, ask for clarification or reasoning, and make small talk
  • Locate written information, facts or specifications
  • Understand technical vocabulary and the enabling words attached to them; for example, “pour the pellets into the extruder”
  • Understand and use charts, diagrams and illustrations

Skills Needed to Thrive on a Job

  • Give as well as follow instructions
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Teach others
  • Predict outcomes
  • State a position
  • Express an opinion
  • Access and use information from diverse sources

Fortunately, The study did not go unnoticed.


New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce report released today December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Workforce.

The Commission’s 28-page PDF executive summary of their report, Tough Choices or Tough Times, is available here.  I gather that the report is being formally released to the public at 10AM today in Washington, DC.

I haven’t had a chance to read it all in depth, but my review indicates a couple things:

1. The Commission is suggesting that the United States transition itself to a largely creative economy.  That means:

  • Research
  • Development
  • Design
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Global Supply Chain Management

2. To get to this point, the United States needs to confront some tough realities about its education system:

The core problem is that our education and training systems were built for another era, an era in which most workers needed only a rudimentary education.  It is not possible to get where we have to go by patching that system.  There is not enough money at any level of our intergovernmental system to fix this problem by spending more on the system we have.  We can get where we must go only by changing the system itself.

Powerful material, indeed – and considering the supporting materials already circulated like the aforementioned Time Magazine cover story and today’s Thomas Friedman op-ed in the New York Times (subscription to TimesSelect required…sigh), it looks like this Commission has the ears of influential policy leaders.  The emphasis on the creative element – perhaps the “creative” moniker – is somewhat surprising to me, but it’s encouraging to see that leaders like those on the bipartisan Commission are looking in that direction for our country’s future.

WIRED: Colorado, North Carolina, Montana December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, WIRED, Workforce.
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A good day for WIRED news…

COLORADO: The Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation is starting the Colorado Energy Coalition to advance the Rocky Mountain State’s position in the emerging energy industry. And there’s a WIRED tie-in:

The CEC also wants to help ensure the state has a highly educated, well-trained work force for the energy sector. The coalition will work with the Metro Denver WIRED Initiative, a $15 million U.S. Department of Labor grant intended to increase the number of skilled workers for the region’s fastest-growing industries, such as energy.

Kevin Thompson from the US Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration forwarded me this complementary article from the Denver Post.

The Denver EDC offers this energy cluster overview, which is worth a read if you want to learn more about how Denver is selling itself to the energy sector.  Lots of skilled workforce data in there.

NORTH CAROLINA: Representatives of Piedmont Triad, the managing partner in the Tar Heel State’s 12-county WIRED initiative, will be attending the 19th Annual Performance Racing Industry trade show in Orlando this weekend. The article discusses motorsports’ importance to North Carolina and the fact that Piedmont Triad is leading WIRED, but no other direct ties are made. Will North Carolina be investing WIRED money in the motorsports industry?

MONTANA: The Montana State Univesity-Billings College of Technology received $1.99 million from the Federal government’s Community-Based Job Training Grant program for the creation of an Energy Workforce Training and Development Center. In part, the grant will “support the educational needs of the State of Montana WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) initiative to advance the development of biofuels, natural and renewable resources.”

WIRED: Northwest Florida overview December 13, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, WIRED, Workforce.
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The Gulf Breeze News offers a concise overview of the 16-county, “Great Northwest” Florida WIRED project. While not revealing anything particularly new, the article did a good job touching the high points. I especially liked their program options and target industry listing:

The WIRED initiative for Northwest Florida includes:

  • Entrepreneurship development designed to enable qualifying start-up companies to secure seed capital.
  • Grants enabling job training for new and existing businesses in the target industries.
  • Secondary education academy development for entrylevel employment in selected industries or accelerated college preparation in the subject areas of math and science.
  • Outreach programs to educate and attract students of all ages into training programs to meet workforce demands.
  • Strategic development component designed to ensure workforce development programs are developing skills necessary to meet current and future target industry needs.

The target industries as defined by the state are:

  • Aerospace and defense
  • Medical device manufacturing, biotechnology and health services where 70 percent of the company’s revenue is generated by sales outside of the Northwest Florida region.
  • Information technology, software development and Electronics engineering.
  • Construction materials manufacturing
  • Distribution activities that support the target industries.