House partners to help people bridge the job gap | New

Greenwood Together sees opportunities amid today’s economic challenges.

In a volatile economy affected by service sector labor shortages and supply chain issues, leaders of the Chamber of Commerce-led Workforce Development Initiative Greenwood see the opportunity to transform the region’s employment opportunities.

Greenwood Together was formed a year ago to spearhead economic and workforce development in the community following the disbandment of the Greenwood Partnership Alliance. Its goal, said House President and CEO Barbara Ann Heegan, is to work together across the many sectors of Greenwood to find collaborative solutions to the issues that are holding back the region’s growth.

The group split into sub-committees to look at issues pertaining to healthcare, manufacturing, nonprofits, small businesses, education, marketing, and the role of government in all of this. Now, after a year of meeting and brainstorming, these committees are coming together to collaborate on the ideas they came up with.

“One of the major accomplishments of all of the sub-committees has been the Collective Impact Model, which means we have all come together to address this critical need to fill over 2,000 open positions that we have identified here in Greenwood County, ”Heegan said.

Integrating the unemployed into the labor market is not as easy as putting them in contact with available jobs. Many people do not have access to reliable transportation to work, others need reliable health and child care options, and without affordable housing options, people may be reluctant to relocate here for a job. Greenwood Together took up the challenge of helping people overcome these barriers to employment.

Workforce Development President Jim Medford said the group started after working with a company to develop a strategic plan. He and Heegan met with local businesses more than 50 times as the sub-committees explored issues and potential solutions in their respective fields.

How do you encourage people who have not been in the labor market for a while to look for a job? Medford said it was by making work attractive – people who currently use government assistance must see their lives improve when they leave that assistance for a job.

“We have a long way to go,” said Teresa Goodman, executive director of community initiatives and head of the nonprofit organizations subcommittee. “We have to have some type of plan to get them from point A to point B, and point B will be where they make more money in these jobs that can be beginners now, but we have a plan for remediate.

Medford called it “bridging the gap” or providing assistance to workers who will lose their government benefits when they start a new job. Goodman said this is where nonprofits can play their part.

“This is the gap where people are going to give up,” she said. “I think one of the most important things that industries forget is that nonprofits are community partners.”

Free medical clinics can offer medical care to new employees while they wait for their new health insurance to take effect, and other nonprofits can help with issues such as rent assistance if a new employee becomes involved. employee loses financial assistance for housing.

These groups are partnering with Piedmont Technical College and Greenwood County School District 50 to provide continuing education and skills training that will help people land well-paying jobs, she said. Not everyone will go to a two- or four-year college, but workplace essential skills training can go a long way in helping people find employment.

It’s also about training employers, Goodman said. Training human resources staff in small businesses is key to providing these businesses with the institutional resources they need, but it also wants to educate employers about struggles against poverty and how this can affect new workers.

“We want to talk about poverty and what it is and help them understand, because a lot of people in these positions have not experienced it themselves,” she said.

Employer training sessions are already scheduled for January, teaching workplaces about poverty and the intersections of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion – called JEDI training.

Filling this gap may require “navigators” or paid staff to help people navigate the network of nonprofits and other options available to them. Heegan said she was a navigator when she worked in New York City, and they do wonders to connect people to the services they need most.

It’s a two-way street – Medford said when looking at fast food restaurants in Greenwood, Chick-fil-A pays the most and gets what he pays in the form of a well-staffed restaurant. Salaries have increased, but he said Greenwood Together will also work with employers to explore the benefits they can offer new employees to make work more attractive and prepare staff for success.

Steve Riley led the Small Business and Foodservice Subcommittee and said small businesses make up about half of Greenwood County’s business. Many small businesses hire part-time and act as a gateway to larger jobs in the industry.

Small businesses can often offer flexible hours. Their weakness, however, is the lack of human resource staff that large companies often have. This leaves them with no one to ensure the company is in compliance with things like signage, electronic verification, and job-related documentation.

“Most small businesses have two, three, four employees. They don’t have HR staff, ”he said. “All of these things, I’ll bet you 50% of these small businesses don’t.”

This need sparked a new business idea: a part-time HR person to work with small businesses and give them the help they needed. Medford said these challenges present several opportunities for new businesses, including new daycare centers and transportation options to help people work.

“This is a unique time in our lives where, due to the circumstances we are facing, significant changes can be made, approaching a collaborative effort as we have done,” he said. he declares.

Things have gone from talking about solutions to trying to implement them, Medford said. The chamber is working with Lonza to recruit workers at U.S. military bases, and recruiting efforts are expanding outside of Greenwood and South Carolina.

“We want to tell our story outside of Greenwood, to high tax areas that they will consider moving to – people coming from Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Los Angeles and trying to share our story with them, ”Heegan said.

The county’s partnership with McCormick Area Transit has made transportation more accessible, but Heegan said she has met with Enterprise about van sharing and is hoping local industries will fund van sharing or offer new rental cars for them. help overcome the lack of transportation of people.

As new apartments are built by the YMCA, Medford said Greenwood Together has spoken to Greenwood’s new modular housing industry Impresa to explore micro-housing. The government subcommittee seeks to expand water, sewage and electricity infrastructure to areas that can then be sites for housing development, he said.

This will require a combination of short and long-term efforts, Medford said, and their strategy spans five years so far. But this time of volatility and transformation seems perfect, he said, for building new networks that can help Greenwood grow.

At the heart of all of these efforts, Heegan said the chamber of commerce is equipped to help connect these groups and build a network of like-minded advocates lobbying for these changes.

“It’s the role of the chamber, to be the coordinator, the facilitator, to connect the dots, to connect the people,” she said. “It’s only natural for us to help and partner with our nonprofits, to help partner with our business community to bridge the gap. “

Contact editor-in-chief Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow us on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.

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