Personnel and economic development issues were the lead items on the agenda for the Highland County commissioners as they began their Monday meeting with a pair of executive sessions.
Upon reconvening, they again met with representatives of Get Worker FIT, the jobs assessment and training program that was originally presented to commissioners on Dec. 19, 2018.
The main objective of the meeting, which included Dr. Denise Reading of Get Worker FIT and Randy Chandler of General Electric Peebles Test Operations, was to clarify the primary goals of the online career assessment and planning tool and to reassure commissioners of its’ “grass roots” objectives.
“Adams County was looking for a way to deal with some very serious issues,” Reading said. “The opioid crisis was one of them, and dealing with the extreme poverty facing them is another, and they were looking for some way to bring different organizations and agencies together to help deal with it in light of the fact they’ve lost all of their major employers except for G.E.”
She made the point clear that her organization at no time went to the state seeking funding, doesn’t expect to receive any direct state funding in return, and has no intention of adding another layer of bureaucracy to the existing county infrastructure.
Reading said the goal of the Get Worker FIT program was to touch 15,000 people in a five-county region — with 10,000 being high school students over a two-year period — to provide a career assessment plan for both local and virtual workplace jobs.
“A dialogue took place with the governor about what was going on in Adams County,” she said. “And Adams, along with Highland, Pike, Brown and Scioto, all work under one work force board, and those employers in turn told us that what was needed was professional skills training.”
Highland County Community Action Executive Director Julia Wise said she supports many of the concepts put forth by Get Worker FIT and had heard positive reports from Adams County, but needed more information and input from local employers before she could fully support it.
“We want to see what the sources and the uses of the funds are,” she said. “Our mission is to help people find jobs, and our organization being a non-profit receives limited dollars from different areas, and we coordinate and collaborate between different entities in the county.”
Commissioner Jeff Duncan said he felt that the infrastructure to facilitate the program was already in place, and that the previous information given to commissioners at times resembled an attempt to “reinvent the wheel.”
“I really hope we can get together with all these different entities that have been approached,” Wise said. “We’re looking to get all the community partners, organizations and employers together so we can all find out at the same time what this group can bring to the table, and to further our goal of having a diverse and educated work force.”
Reading said that earlier in the year Adams County began self-funding the Get Worker FIT program from the local Ohio Means Jobs office, along with local school districts and other agencies, in an attempt to ascertain what jobs were available and what skills assessments were needed to improve employment chances for its approximately 11,000 person work force.
OMJ Adams-Brown County Director Debora Plymail told The Times-Gazette that they’re in the process of “getting their feet wet” in the Get Worker FIT program and plan to use it as an additional resource in their “tool-belt” to make job seekers more employable and to help others get better jobs.
Commissioner Gary Abernathy, who earlier expressed reservations regarding the “for-profit” status of the program, said he wanted to be careful as to what he put his signature on until he had a full understanding of Get Worker FIT.
“I’m not sure personally that I know enough, or am confident that I know enough about the big picture of this thing to say that, as a commission, we support it,” he said.
Also Monday, commissioners approved five resolutions dealing with rescinding an earlier resolution, decreasing a line item budget expenditure and a block grant, a reduction in the Babington Sewer Debt Retirement, and a Soil & Water Conservation District request to submit a revised budget.
In other matters, commissioners agreed to issue a letter of support in securing a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration for continued drug rehabilitation efforts at the Highland County Probation Department, and approved a $500 expenditure for repair of a county vehicle at Robbin’s Automotive.
They again returned to executive session to meet with Sheriff Donnie Barrera, and upon reconvening shortly afterward, adjourned until Wednesday.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.