One of the first things an employer looks at in considering moving into a new area or an existing business considers expanding into a new product, is the quality of the workforce. “Are the skills I need there?” is the question.
Knowing this to be true, the businesses that are on the board of Workforce Wayne are always looking for avenues or infrastructures that will develop such a workforce. A training lab is part of the answer.
“We want it to be clear from the start that this organization and this new site—despite its name—is meant to assist both Wayne and Pike County businesses,” said Lyndsay Birmelin, the director of Workforce Initiatives.
The lab is situated on the second floor in the new Silk Mill in Hawley, which stands at the borders of both counties. According to Birmelin, the lab contains 16 laptop computers, moveable tables, an instructor’s laptop cart and a printer with an LCD projector to display the instructor’s presentation screen on the wall.
“The workstations are equipped with MS Windows 7, MS Office Standard 2010, Internet Explorer 9, CD-ROM drive, flash drive, a 15.5-inch display and wireless connectivity, including the Internet,” Birmelin said.
One of the unique features of the 600-square-foot space is that it allows consortium training in the two counties. “That means that there may not be a big enough need for a specific skill by any one employer, but when many employers are considered, we are able to include all of them in a neutral site like this lab,” Birmelin said.
Another feature Birmelin highlighted is that the consortium approach can encourage a trainer from a college like Penn State to come to the site and hold the training here. “There is no longer a need to send employees long distances to update and expand their skill,” she said. “We can serve as the liaison between a business and an education or training provider. We can assist businesses in matching their organizations’ training needs to that of an appropriate resource.”
One of the principal supporters of the lab effort is Wayne Economic Development Company (WEDCO). “We are more focused on business retention these days,” said Mary Beth Wood, WEDCO Executive Director. “This is an area of economic development that doesn’t always get the big headlines. How do you make the businesses that are here stronger so that we retain them? One of the ways, like this lab, is to provide avenues or methods to develop increased skills development for their employees.
There is an attraction component to bringing in new businesses, but our primary focus is to make businesses that are here stronger.”
Workforce Wayne is a non-profit organization with a mission to create a more effective workforce delivery system through developing career opportunities, and to support lifelong learning in county residents. It is supported by several grants: a $95,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, another $100,000 grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development and a $99,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business Enterprise program.
“About 25% of our funding comes from the businesses in the area,” Birmelin said.