Jon Sowards, President/CEO of the South Central Workforce Development Board, spoke to the fiscal court Tuesday requesting the body enter into an inter-local agreement with the ten counties in the BRADD region.
An interlocal agreement is a written contract between local government agencies such as a city, a county, a school board, or a constitutional office.
“The role of the board,” said Sowards, “describes us as your local department of labor in the state.”
There are 20 workforce development boards in the state of Kentucky and its job is to serving employers and job seekers alike.
“We receive federal funding to help employers match with talent needs. We also help seekers who have barriers to getting the skills they need to move back into the workforce,” said Sowards.
The federal dollars flow from the Department of Labor down to every state.
“In our case, it’s the Kentucky Education Workforce Development Cabinet,” Sowards said. “They provide a budget to each of the workforce boards. We don’t actually hold the money, we operate on a reimbursement system.”
Sowards added the funds are spent on operations, staff, and customers with an emphasis on putting a lot of folks through short-term training.
The board is audited on a regular basis to assure its spending the money appropriately.
“By entering into an inter-local agreement, it sets out to give local officials authority to appoint the fiscal agent. These are the folks that do the accounting and manage the money between the board and the state,” said Sowards.
An inter-local agreement was signed in 2015-2016 but has to be updated every five years.
Every county has its own appointment on the board and all judge-executives vote on the others who serve. The board is made up of 23 members of the communities. Over 50% of the board has to be, by law, comprised of folks from the business community. There are also labor, education, and government representatives.
“Overwhelmingly, it’s driven by the business community because it’s about the workforce,” said Sowards.
Magistrate Tyler Davenport told Sowards the county appreciated all the work the board does with the workforce.
“We know you have your work cut out for you with unemployment checks still going out,” said Davenport. “It’s a trying time,” responded Sowards.
Judge Chick asked Sowards if he had the numbers of jobs that will be available in the BRADD region for the next five years.
“We can generate that but I’m always hesitant to run those projections,” answered Sowards. “I’m a little skeptical because they spit out some really large numbers. I do look at current data and as of last week across our 10 county region, there were 8,730 jobs posted. That’s high. That’s jumped up 2,000 job postings since January. You can’t go anywhere without talking to employers about it. There’s a lot of pain going on right now. Not a lot of folks participating in the workforce.”
Chick said the board was doing a good job of representing Logan County.
“They are doing everything they can to place qualified and educated workers and helping with their needs to be able to get a better job,” said the judge. “Some of their best clients are somebody that has an underpaid job that decides to go to the workforce development institute to try to get a little further education.”
Sowards told the court he had a great story to tell about a student from Russellville (Frank Garcia) who utilized the workforce development program.
“We just completed a 15-week web development course we ran in conjunction with BC Skills Development Academy out of Barren County but we ran in Warren County. One of those folks in that course was a young man from Russellville High School. He basically was a senior and had completed all graduation requirements in December. His counselor reached out to us and asked if there was a way he could participate in this web development class that trains people on how to develop websites.
“It was worked out between the two high schools and we got him in there. He graduated in the top of his class. In fact, he is getting ready to go to Make School. I wasn’t familiar with what Make School was until I got into this line of work,” said Sowards.
Make School is a private computer science college in San Francisco, Calif. Located in the Union Square neighborhood, Make School offers a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Applied Computer Science.
“You come out of that school after two years with a Bachelor’s of Science degree and everybody in that school is heavily recruited by Google, Microsoft, or Facebook. It’s a big deal,” added Sowards who went on to say, “There is a gentleman that’s graduating this summer from Make School out of Barren County. He’s getting ready to move to Redmond, Wash. to work for Microsoft. He is making six figures.
“This web development class we are running in conjunction with BC Skills is life-changing. Most of the folks that go through that class and graduate don’t go to Make School. Most are staying in south-central Kentucky able to work from home. They may be working for a company on the east or west coast but they stay here and make $25 to $30 an hour starting out. That’s life-changing money,” said Sowards.
A motion to approve the county’s participation in the inter-local agreement was made and passed by the court.