An in-depth assessment of the workforce in Bourbon County has been completed and it offers a series of recommendations for BCREDI to work on immediately and for the long term. That’s according to Executive Director Robert Harrington. The workforce assessment was one of three studies BCREDI has undertaken since early spring, with the other two focused on retail opportunities and housing needs.
Along workforce study included one-on-one interviews with key employers as well as a survey that provided input from more than sixty-four employers in the county. Residents also had their input, with more than 440 people providing input. More than 80% are currently employed, including a sampling of those who commute into the county for work. In addition, nearly 130 Ft. Scott and Uniontown school students gave their thoughts on their education and careers.
“This workforce assessment provides a lot of on the ground input from companies, employees, those that might want to come back to a job and students that will help our staff and board develop ways to improve our overall workforce,” said Harrington. Harrington noted the input from surveys helps fill in the gaps that the extensive statistical data in the report doesn’t address. “The data can tell us a lot about how we are doing in Bourbon County, how we compare to our surrounding counties and other areas on things like wages and how many people commute in and out for work. But it doesn’t tell us things like how employers view the skills of the workforce and what skills they think are important and, on the other side, how satisfied employees are with their current work and their own levels of skills,” noted Harrington.
The workforce assessment was conducted by O’Brian & Associates, an economic and workforce development consulting firm based in Joplin, MO. Along with the on-the ground input and statistical data, the firm’s report also provides a series of recommendations as a starting point for action. “They gave us good observations on where we are today and what our employers and employees, including our future workforce, needs to be successful. From that they gave us a variety of recommendations on improving training, connecting students to employers, better supporting existing employers and engaging those not currently in the workforce,” said Harrington. “Now it’s up to our staff and board to look at priorities as well as key partners such as the school districts, Ft. Scott Community College, Chamber of Commerce and others to start the work in the new year,” he added.
“It was a pleasure working with the Bourbon County REDI team and having such great response from companies, residents and students,” said Rob O’Brian, founder of O’Brian & Associates. “Bourbon County has strong manufacturing, health care, education and agriculture sectors that have provided good job opportunities and good education options for many years. This study gives REDI a starting point for improving what it has, adding new options and ensuring residents have good jobs and companies have skilled employees into the future.”