It is 62 pages of vision, challenges, strategies and tactics -- offset by hope-deadening statistics detailing the long way we have to climb.
Workforce development in the county is at a "crucial crossroads," the report states, listing some of the county's critical concerns:
--Even though manufacturing employment has declined, there is a shortage of skilled employees; dislocated workers are "poorly prepared for anything other than lower-wage jobs;" even entry-level jobs go begging because applicants can't pass drug or background checks or lack "soft skills, such as motivation, punctuality and attendance."Whew.
--Too many students drop out of school (only 77% of the county's ninth graders, and 71% of the city's, finish high school in four years); and a diploma "may not signify either 12th grade competence or employability."
--Too many residents view the community in negative terms, "which impacts employee recruitment and retention."
Despite all that bad news -- and there was more (crime statistics, out-migration, unflattering comparisons with Kenosha and Waukesha Counties) -- the report issued a call to action: six "core challenges ... to ensure the county prepares a world-class competitive workforce that will fill available jobs and reduced unemployment and poverty." There's not a quick fix or easy answer in the bunch. They are:
--Raise standards and expectations for public education.Each of these challenges has been assigned to a different "convener," like the County Executive, the United Way, the Racine County Economic Development Corporation, the Workforce Development Center.
--Support stronger, more financially stable families.
--Create jobs in communities with concentrations of unemployed workers.
--Enhance workforce transportation alternatives.
--Improve job seeker information about opportunities in new and expanding businesses.
--Communicate a more positive community image.
There is a strategic plan for each, with specific challenges listed, goals, strategies, tactics and "outcome metrics" to measure progress. For example, the challenge of creating jobs in communities with concentrations of unemployed workers has as its goal: to create an average of 200 new jobs annually "through business attraction and existing business growth programs" between 2009 and 2014. How? By redeveloping vacant land and underutilized manufacturing facilities, creating new business parks, creating business development incentive programs like low-interest loan funds and micro-lending, and expand ties between the county's minority companies and businesses and governments.
The transportation challenge -- fewer than 1,300 city and county residents use public transportation regularly to commute to work -- seeks to provide alternative transportation options "that more clearly link underutilized workers with employment and educational opportunities." No, KRM isn't mentioned; this is more a Belle Urban System challenge, although it also calls for the recommendation of "possible new transit services ... between Racine County and other counties."
The sixth challenge -- communicating a more positive community image -- seeks a 3% increase by 2014 of residents with a positive community image of Racine County. How? "Hire a public relations professional to identify key target audience and relevant messages..." and "identify and align key media partners required (including web-based media, print media throughout the region from Northern Illinois to Madison, public television and radio) ... to communicate positive news stories affecting Racine County and providing perspectives on other news events."
Want to read the whole report? You'll find it HERE.
There's also a six-minute video introducing the plan, which was played at the Racine County Economic Development Corporation's 25th Anniversary celebration Thursday night at the Marriott. You'll find the video online HERE.
The steering committee that put the plan together was chaired by Michael Batten, Chairman, President and CEO of Twin Disc, Inc. Others on the committee were:
Bryan Albrecht, President, Gateway Technical College
Gary Becker, Mayor, City of Racine
Roger Caron, President, Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce
Debra Jossart, Director, Racine County Human Services Department
Gordon Kacala, Executive Director, Racine County Economic Development
William L. McReynolds, Racine County Executive
Jeff Neubauer, Chief Executive Officer, Kranz, Inc.
Alice Oliver, Manager, Workforce Development Center
John Rote, Vice President, Office of the Chairman, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Chief Academic Officer, Racine Unified Schools