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NEBA Examines Workforce Readiness
The Northland Education and Business Alliance discussed new co-chairs, along with plans for a business and industry roundtable during their May 4 meeting.
Dr. Todd Schuetz, superintendent of the Smithville School District, was the featured speaker during the May 4 NEBA meeting.
Amy Washam, as education co-chair, and Courtney Reyes, as business co-chair, will begin their terms during the June meeting. Washam is director of Northwest Missouri State University-Kansas City, and Reyes serves as director of Government Affairs & Workforce for the Homebuilders Association of Greater Kansas City. The two will succeed current co-chairs Adam Jelenic of LMV Automotive and Brian Noller of the Northland Career Center.
The group also began planning for a business roundtable at their June meeting. The idea for the event developed from discussion of the lack of workforce readiness by job applicants in nearly all Northland industries, a problem seen nationally.
“We’re finding that a lot of applicants have a bad work attitude,” noted Julia Kruckow at Standard Arrow, an airplane components company. “We have hired people, but the applicants as a whole are really weak in a lot of ways.” Several business members noted that many applicants consistently fail to arrive with good soft skills attitudes and aptitudes that would make them ready for training, let alone work.
EDC Business Retention Specialist suggested that NEBA could address the problem with a business summit to help find common denominators and solutions. “It’s not one specific industry,” she noted. “It’s all of them.”
Noller and other members agreed to plan the meeting which would involve chambers of commerce and business leaders. More information will be announced when available.
Classroom, Business Hurdles
The group also discussed changes and updates by local schools and businesses. These included the semiconductor shortage impacting many manufacturing businesses in Clay County and the region. EDC Executive Director David Slater said the most visible result includes slowdowns at the Ford Kansas City Plan with 7,500 employees, plus an estimated 50,000 regional workers at suppliers, transportation providers and related businesses. Several noted the root cause involves a global manufacturing shortage of semiconductors, which are now used in everything from cars to washing machines.
Some positive news included several new initiatives, including proposed expansion of the Northland Career Center, which had 249 students nine years ago and is projecting 500 for next year.
Other efforts include internships for area high school students, including LMV’s Project Most. A partnership with Liberty Public Schools, Project Most provides on-the-job training and real-life work experiences for learners with different abilities, including four who will soon graduate.
“We’re excited for those kids,” Jelenic said. “And the interest for the program continues to grow.” More information on Project Most is available on this link.
Dr. Todd Schuetz, superintendent of the Smithville School District, provided the monthly school district update. He noted that Smithville, like districts everywhere, has faced incredible challenge because of COVID but has seen several victories, including staff response to a year of challenge.
“They’ve put aside their personal interests and focused on what is best for the students,” he said. “They built the plane as we were flying it and overnight learned how to teach virtually. It was very, very impressive.”
He also noted business partnerships that provide learning opportunities through internships and shadowing opportunities for students. He said a dramatic expansion is likely to occur with continued development of a massive data center near I-435 and Highway 169 that was recently approved by the Kansas City Council. Although the “Facebook/Google-size” investor has yet to be identified, their representatives have communicated that “…they want to make a difference in the community.”
Dr. Schuetz said that Smithville schools have also secured funding through the Kauffman Foundation for a full-time facilitator to work with K-12 students on real-world learning.