By Liz McEwan
A thriving economy requires a skilled workforce and a strong talent pipeline that meets the needs of local industry.
One of the primary ways workforce development is supported in Northern Kentucky is through the partnership and leadership of Skyward and Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, which focus on elevating the region to compete more effectively in the global marketplace.
The partners recently introduced a joint One Vision One Voice fundraising campaign, the third such initiative launched by the partnership to date.
The campaign will be committed to realizing the goals of the myNKY plan – which include regional growth in wellness, education, vibrancy and jobs – while aggregating leadership, support and investment from business and community leaders across a diverse array of industries.
Mer Grayson, One Vision One Voice campaign co-chair, says the collective impact of collaboration can effect real change and move the needle on regional growth.
“Northern Kentucky’s success depends on partnership,” Grayson says. “Working together, we have improved our competitiveness and quality of life. The investments over the next five years will deliver even greater prosperity for all.”
The campaign will enable Skyward and Tri-ED to support projects and initiatives that will strengthen the talent pipeline including the Northern Kentucky chapter of the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) and the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Coalition (AMWDC).
“Skyward and Tri-ED are both focused on increasing our region’s economic competitiveness,” Skyward President Bill Scheyer says. “To do this, we must achieve the myNKY goals to have a community that is healthy, educated and vibrant, which will attract the employers and the talent needed to provide and fill the jobs that Tri-ED is helping to create. Skyward and the myNKY plan are essential for creating the conditions leading to economic success, and the industry creation, attraction and retention that Tri-ED does is essential for achieving that economic success.”
Focus on training and retention
With the Tristate experiencing steady economic growth, Northern Kentucky is well situated to claim its share of economic viability. But attracting industry is only one piece of the puzzle — the region must also educate and retain its workforce.
Tri-ED Senior VP for Business Development Wade Williams sees a bright future for workforce development, citing the value in industry-led initiatives to increase the talent pipeline.
“Adequate skilled labor is essential for a community to compete in recruiting and expanding industry,” Williams says. “Skyward and Tri-ED recognized this key issue in 2008, leading to the formation of Tri-ED’s NKY Boost program for business retention and expansion. In 2012, we helped lead a community-wide survey with the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park Foundation, which identified skilled labor needs over a 10-year period. The results continue to drive additional work and have become a catalyst for much of our current focus.”
The NKY FAME chapter is a critical component of the community’s focus on workforce development. Launched in 2010, the chapter is a collaborative effort between the manufacturing industry and local educators and investors to provide a pipeline for skilled workers from training to gainful employment.
FAME’s primary program is the 18-month Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) certification program offered at Gateway Community & Technical College. Now in its second year, with 20 companies currently participating, the program combines education and training for students two days per week, with three weekdays spent on site with an area employer.
Thanks to apprenticeships from local businesses, students earn income while receiving training, most earning $25,000-$30,000 while enrolled.
Meanwhile, the AMWDC was established in 2014 as an umbrella organization, helping facilitate collaboration between various workforce initiatives and partners.
Earlier this year, AMWDC introduced the Enhanced Operator Certification program, which streamlines 25 credit hours into a 16-week course for roughly half the tuition cost. Credits apply toward Gateway’s associate degree in Manufacturing Engineering Technology, and, thanks to strong industry support, the program provides opportunities for every student to meet with the program’s employment partners.
Local employer support pays off for AMT students
Michael Hirsch, VP of Operations/COO for Bosch Automotive Steering, acts as NKY FAME’s chapter president and sits on the statewide board. He is passionate about workforce development and considers FAME’s partnerships with Tri-ED and AMWCD to be a lynchpin in its regional success.
“Our relationship with Tri-ED goes back many years,” Hirsch explains. “As we grew our company and footprint, Tri-ED was always at our side to support and assist us. We teamed up during 2015 with AMWDC and have consolidated efforts to tackle workforce development; our regional industry is represented in both initiatives and there is clearly a common objective.”
Not only does Bosch lend its COO to a supporting position with FAME, but the company is a major supporter of the AMT program, sponsoring 10 of the 24 students currently enrolled. Other participating NKY employers include companies like Hahn Automation, Linamar, L’Oreal, Mubea, Perfetti Van Melle and Skilcraft.
Support for workforce development comes in creative ways from local businesses as well. For example, on July 8, the state FAME chapter and automotive parts manufacturer Mubea sponsored racer Garrett Smithley in the Xfinity Series and Kentucky Speedway NASCAR Truck races, respectively.
Business representatives and AMT students were stationed at the KY FAME booth inside the KY Speedway entrance to talk to race-goers about educational and employment opportunities through FAME.
One Vision One Voice takes shape
Campaign co-chair Bill Robinson of Frost Brown Todd LLC explains the critical importance of local coordination and investments.
“Plans only matter if we make the investments needed to ensure their success,” he says. “Now that the One Vision One Voice campaign is underway, we all have the opportunity to invest more for our children and grandchildren.”
Tri-ED President and CEO Dan Tobergte further explains how the campaign will support efforts to create, retain and attract high-quality, primary industry jobs.
“The campaign will help drive additional awareness and resources to workforce programs including NKY FAME and the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Coalition, which will be focused on aligning workforce elements across many groups,” Tobergte says. “One of our greatest challenges will be to provide easy-to-understand career pathways that build awareness toward career options in manufacturing. The campaign and the leadership of Skyward and Tri-ED will bring this community together and continue to be a springboard for our organizations in support of building a talented skilled labor supply.”