Work Matters: Workforce development provides career of rewards
Column by Tommy Wheatley
Reprinted with permission from The News Enterprise Thursday, July 7, 2016
At the start of the summer of 1980, I was a college student looking forward to a seasonal job near Hardinsburg, my hometown. I was charged with overseeing a summer youth employment program, matching 16- to 21-year-old workers with nonprofit employers.
That summer, I first realized the impact the workforce development system has on individuals and our entire communities. But little did I know, the job was the start of my own lifelong career and passion.
Helping those youth and nonprofit organizations was exceptionally rewarding, especially as several of the young people excelled at their summer jobs and ended up working and advancing with those employers right up until retirement.
The program afforded the same opportunities to me. With four summers under my belt, I began a full-time career in the workforce development system in 1987. And on July 29, I’ll retire as regional program manager with Kentucky Career Center-Lincoln Trail.
Much has changed in three decades. As a retiree of any industry would tell you, technology and automation has transformed the way we do business. Meanwhile, workforce development continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of job seekers and employers in a global market.
Yet, even with those changes, the core of our work is steadfast. It’s about connecting job seekers and employers. For the job seeker, it’s a path to self-sustaining employment and a better quality of life for their families. For the employer, it’s finding the talent that will help their business succeed and grow.
Throughout the eight counties served by Kentucky Career Center-Lincoln Trail – Breckinridge, Grayson, Hardin, LaRue, Marion, Meade, Nelson and Washington – employers of all sizes and job seekers alike trust our staff to make those connections.
Most major manufacturers that have located in our region have counted on us to help them get started by promoting job opportunities, screening and testing candidates and more.
As for job seekers, I won’t forget the woman who visited one of our career centers for assistance because we helped her find the right job 12 years earlier and our services had left a lasting positive impression. She was ready to make the next step in her career, and we were ready, again, to be the resource she needed.
Additionally, our many community partners have recognized the value of our services and therefore have provided significant support, from assistance with outreach to low-cost office space.
The confidence placed in our staff – whether from a job seeker, a company that is relocating or expanding, or a community partner – is an incredible reward.
As I retire from Kentucky Career Center-Lincoln Trail, as well as vacate my seat on the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board, I’m certain our region’s workforce development professionals will continue to earn that confidence.
Not only are these professionals providing customized services to employers and job seekers today, but they also work diligently with partners in economic development, education and the business community to meet our region’s future workforce needs.
There is no doubt a competitive workforce fuels business investment, which in turn equates to greater opportunities for job seekers and entrepreneurs and greater economic prosperity for us all. That’s why we are creating a pipeline of skilled job seekers that will help attract new employers to our region and help existing employers grow.
As I prepare for my next chapter, I’m thankful for the opportunity to shape the services of the career center as well as the strategy of the workforce development board. More importantly, I’m proud of the workforce development partnerships and programs making a difference for our families, businesses and communities.
Tommy Wheatley is regional program manager with Kentucky Career Center-Lincoln Trail and a member of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board. He can be reached at 270-766-5115 or email@example.com.