Workforce Collaboration Case Study: New Collaborative in Bowling Green, KY Helps Fill Key Manufacturing Positions

Photo: www.gm.com/AJ Mast for Chevrolet

Bowling Green, KY may be a smaller city, but it has developed a reputation for being a great place to do business, coming in at #39 this year on Forbes Magazine’s Top 200 “Best Small Places for Business and Careers” list .

Bowling Green’s high income and job growth combined with a low cost of doing business has made it a popular destination for many major companies including Fruit of the Loom, Camping World, Magna International, Holley Performance Products, Russell Brands, and General Motors (The Bowling Green Assembly Plant has been the source of all Chevrolet Corvettes built since 1981).

During the past decade, Bowling Green’s economy weathered the recession and rebounded surprisingly well with a 5% increase in manufacturing employment, a 5% increase in professional and business services, and a 6% increase in leisure and hospitality since 2005. With all of this growth however, some local employers, especially those in manufacturing, have struggled to find enough workers.

Higher Peer Advisor Kelly Rice is the Employment Services Manager at the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green and recently told us about a new collaborative effort called Team Workforce that is working to solve the worker shortage issue that employers are facing.

Here is an excerpt from our interview with Kelly:

Can you tell us about Team Workforce? What is it and who is involved?

Team Workforce is a local team of partners from different agencies including mainstream workforce development, non-profits, and educational institutions. At this point the collaborative includes our local Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Career Center, Goodwill Industries Job Junction, Southern Kentucky Technical College, Western Kentucky University, Department for Community Based Services and the Kentucky Works Program. Our goal is to eliminate the unemployment rate for our local counties and bridge the gap between motivated workers and employers with positions that they are struggling to fill. Our group meets on a bi-weekly basis to discuss current job openings, strategies for helping our clients access these openings, and whether or not we might have good candidates for these positions.

What have been some of the early accomplishments of the collaborative? 

So far we’ve worked a lot with the manufacturing industry and some of our early accomplishments have been the development of a production certificate program and a manufacturing skills program that helps gives clients the skills they need to access better employment opportunities. We’ve also been able to reach out to our city officials and work with them to alleviate some of the transportation barriers job seekers face by changing some bus routes to provide greater access to local industrial parks.

How has your involvement in the Team Workforce collaborative benefited refugees in Bowling Green? Have the other collaborative members and the local employers you are targeting been receptive to working with your clients? 

Our clients have definitely benefited from this collaboration. Of course any collaboration has its challenges. It’s a learning process and we are all still learning how to best accommodate each other’s needs. As anyone who works with refugees knows, issues such as language, transportation, and childcare needs always present challenges and sometimes cause employers or mainstream workforce development programs to be hesitant to work with our clients. We’ve continued to educate our partners and local employers about our clients strong work ethic and skills and have provided support when necessary, such as coordinating interpretation.

Job Preparation Class at ICKY/www.icofky.org

Our employment program has benefited because we are more aware of local employment and training opportunities than we were before and they are more aware of our programs.

Our network has expanded and this has created more training and job opportunities for our clients, which is encouraging.

We have also worked with the local career center to design a weekly basic computer skills training class for clients without much experience using computers. Additionally, we have seen an increase in clients enrolled in the GED program at Southern Kentucky Technical College, which has also opened up pathways to other vocational training programs offered by the school.

Many thanks to Kelly Rice for sharing this collaboration case study! To check out past collaboration case studies, click here.

We’d love to hear your collaboration success story. Please email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Kelly RiceKelly Rice has a B.S in Finance from Virginia Tech and an HR certificate from Western Kentucky University.  She worked at Wells Fargo for 8 years and joined the International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green as Employment Program Manager in May 2013.

 

Note: Information and statistics about Bowling Green’s economy were obtained at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowling_Green,_Kentucky#Economy.

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