This Committee's "Story" continues to evolve. Through a year of community work, this committee has identified barriers to prosperity, created recommendations to address these barriers, and submitted their recommendations to the PPA Steering Committee. The committee will continue its work as the final recommendations and strategy for implementation are developed.

The recommendations related to Workforce Development tell a story about the workforce needs in Athens-Clarke County. First, it has become common knowledge that one of the reasons vaccine manufacturer Novartis did not choose Athens as a site for its new plant was our inadequately skilled workforce. Contacts with other employers have indicated that they, too, have a difficult time finding skilled workers in Athens. Soft skills seem to be a particular problem.

In addition to the problems with our current workforce, our high dropout rate in Athens makes employers very concerned about our "emerging" youth workforce. Knowing the above information, our community is telling us several things.

First, these recommendations are telling our institutions that our high dropout rate and unprepared workforce are unacceptable, and that we all need to accept responsibility and do things differently. These recommendations emphasize that not all students have the same academic needs and some students may become more successful by learning a skill rather than going to college. Trade schools and technical skills need to be incorporated throughout the education process. We can no longer separate the responsibilities between education and workforce training. There needs to be a seamless pathway between high school, post-secondary, and workforce education, as well as a comprehensive program for retraining adults as the needs of the workforce change.

These recommendations emphasize that employers and schools must share a common mission -- getting people into the workforce. The School System, Athens Tech, the University of Georgia, the Department of Labor, ACC Government, Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Faith-Based Community must develop a comprehensive and integrated workforce strategy. This strategy must be proactive and industry-specific to address current and anticipated economic opportunities in Athens.

These institutions must share responsibility for training adults as well as middle and high school students. We have to recognize that our traditional workforce strategies and our traditional public school system have been unsuccessful in preparing large numbers of persons in poverty to get and keep a job. New collaborations among all education, employment, and workforce resources must be developed to achieve the desired results with shared accountability.