As an economic developer for Springfield and Washington County, my job centers on business attraction and business retention for our community. Much like my counterparts throughout the Lincoln Trail region, my success is typically measured in job growth and more broadly what I do to help position the community for greater economic prosperity.
Without question, the availability of qualified talent fuels that economic prosperity. Our ability to meet the workforce needs of existing and new business is paramount. That’s why I take my service on the Lincoln Trail Workforce Investment Board (LTWIB) so seriously. The LTWIB provides oversight of the Kentucky Career Centers-Lincoln Trail and works to ensure that we have a responsive and effective workforce system in our region.
The state recently established a certification process for the Kentucky Career Centers and I had the privilege of serving on the certification review team for our region. We evaluated each center based on a universal set of standards, tough demanding standards designed to provide a one-stop, integrated customer oriented experience for both job seekers and employers.
I’m proud to report that all four career centers in the Lincoln Trail Region are certified. No other region in the state has achieved that distinction. While achieving the certification is something in which to take great pride, career center staff will tell you they realized an even greater reward.
“The process brought all of us together to figure out the best way to offer seamless services to our customers,” said Bardstown Career Center’s Phoebe Arroyo. Arroyo leads the job seeker services team at the Bardstown Center.
Workforce board director, Sherry Johnson, said that three years ago the state sought to integrate the way workforce services were delivered in career centers with a functional approach as opposed to individual agencies in the same building.
“It was a much needed change but we all know that change is never easy,” said Johnson. “The standards set forth in the certification process are serving as a catalyst for that change.”
Jennifer Carmen, who leads the employer services team at the Elizabethtown Center, couldn’t agree more. She noted a key initiative was to realign center staff, allowing them to offer more intensive, specialized services to employers and job seekers.
“It was an amazing team building experience that completely transformed the way we do business,” she said.
The same holds true for her counterpart Jersia Lamons who leads the job seeker team.
“The process of certification allowed me to fully understand the daily operations of the career center and how each partner adds value,” said Lamons.
Lamons added that the collaboration resulted in more innovative ways to assist customers. Like Lamons, Leitchfield Career Center’s Karen Wheatley said the process helped the team introduce an entire suite of workshops to help job seekers further develop the soft skills employers value.
The Lebanon Career Center team was equally pleased with the certification.
“We already had positive feedback regarding our customer service, but this process helped us take that to an even higher level,” said Elizabeth Thompson. Thompson leads the job seeker services team in Lebanon.
I think Carmen says it best. “Working together, we supply employers with qualified candidates and job seekers with a better understanding of employer needs.”
I think you’ll agree that in the end, it’s not about the certification but about the results it yields. That’s what’s most important because that’s what will drive economic development, job growth and regional prosperity. We can and should congratulate the dedicated staff of the career centers, but the true winners are the citizens of the Lincoln Trail Region who benefit from the results.
Daniel Carney is the executive director of the Springfield-Washington County Economic Development Authority. He serves as a member of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Investment Board.