Economic Development in Ada: Business Retention and Workforce Development
Business Retention and Workforce Development in Ada, OK
Workforce is becoming an increasingly important part of economic development as companies are searching to find key talent to fill open jobs and this is one of the greatest barriers to economic growth. As an economic development organization focused on increasing the number of people employed at high-paying, quality jobs in our community, the Ada Jobs Foundation strives to create pathways that increase the number of people joining the local workforce. Over the last several years, we have worked with local private-sector companies, education providers and community stakeholders to draft a local workforce development strategy, and we have identified 4 target workforce pathways in our local economy: Manufacturing, Healthcare, IT, and STEM.
To explain our work in this area, we will highlight key programs that support local workforce
Business Retention and Expansion
Our current talent demand survey with local manufacturers seeks to learn more about the skills necessary to enter this field, methods for recruitment and retention, benefits offered to employees, and their current workforce demographics. The information gathered from these conversations is key to our work at the Ada Jobs Foundation to help build inform our local education providers of the skills needed by these employers in the future. We use this effort to support existing, export-oriented companies to retain and expand employment in our area, and we are increasingly looking to support both manufacturing companies as well as service companies working in the areas of technology, environmental science, and research and development.
We have a long-standing partnership with Pontotoc Technology Center (PTC) and East Central University to help build awareness about programs in the four key areas outlined previously. East Central University is a longtime partner that maintains close ties with local businesses and organizations to provide talent to local industry. This unique partnership has led to the creation of a Water Technology Cluster that aims to address problems that impact local and state water resources. Additionally, AJF helps PTC with hosting several events throughout the year such as Manufacturing Day, where younger students are exposed to the variety of different programs available to them at local institutions.
Digital Skilling Initiatives
The Ada Jobs Foundation recognizes the importance of the digital economy as element of our Rural Innovation Strategy (which was outlined in our previous article). What’s more is that digital jobs have high-wages in our region. People working in Information industry sectors in Oklahoma made an annual average wage of $60,407, according to the Quarterly Census of Economy and Wages. Software
publishers made even more, with an average wage of $82,223 in the same year. As we transition from an agricultural, to industrial, to a knowledge-based economy, these jobs are crucial to the health of our local economy.
We have partnered with the Center on Rural Innovation to pilot new digital skilling programs, including an opportunity to provide nano-degree scholarships through Udacity to 7 students in our region in 2020 and 2021. These scholarships are focused on key digital skills, including Digital Marketing, Data Analytics, and Front-end Web Development, and these are skills needed in our local region. Also, we are working to build more awareness of career opportunities in IT and we partnered with Pontotoc Technology Center to host a career awareness IT Support Specialist “open house” event in 2021. The Technology Center provides training for IT Specialists necessary for industry-standard certifications from CompTIA. East Central University also provides an opportunity for students to major in Computer Science, and taken together, these post-secondary education services help our local companies grow by having access to employees with key digital skills and talent.
Many of the programs and work we do at the Ada Jobs Foundation could not be possible without important partnerships between the Chickasaw Nation, the City of Ada, local manufacturers, the Pontotoc County School District, Pontotoc Technology Center, and East Central University who continuously strive to create and support programs that strengthen local workforce development. Each
entity works together to bridge silos together to increase the number of people entering the local workforce. Without a strong workforce, there is no economic development. Strengthening and training local talent is important for the community as this ensures jobs do not go unfilled and businesses are able to keep up with supply demand. We are passionate about creating awareness on the opportunities available to community and will continue to help create a more resilient rural economy in Ada.
•Business retention and expansion programs are vital for economic development groups to help in assessing what is needed by local industry and to help bridge the gap between employers and talent.
•Exposure to different career pathways should begin at the junior high level where students are more curious and likely to explore new ideas.
• Future jobs are likely to require more technology and digital skills. Digital skilling programs are a way in which we are helping companies in Ada and Pontotoc County have the talent they need to grow in the future.