Workforce Investment Board looks for new leaders

Big changes are happening at once to the local area’s work force development system, the organizations to help people find jobs and help businesses find qualified workers.

In July, at the start of the new fiscal year, the office of the Workforce One Investment Board of Southwest Ohio moved from Butler to Clermont County.

The work force board is comprised of 30 members who are private business, education and government leaders from Butler, Clermont and Warren counties. Their job is to make recommendations to county commissioners about job training programs, job center activities and hiring services for businesses.

Butler County had served as fiscal officer of the organization for the three-county partnership. That meant the Hamilton office in Butler County had responsibilities for invoicing the One-Stop job centers each quarter, processing payments received, being the primary state contact and responding to audits, said Jerome Kearns, director of Butler County Job and Family Services.

The cost of wages for the board’s two employees — an executive director and administrative assistant — are shared by the counties, Kearns said.

When Butler County’s Job and Family Services department faced budget cuts last year of more than 30 percent, Kearns said he recommended the county no longer host the Workforce One Investment Board.

“We did not receive any additional compensation for the work….there was no return on our investment,” Kearns said.

CHAIN REACTION

When Butler County stopped being the group’s fiscal agent, the executive director and administrative assistant jobs moved to Clermont County. The people in those positions were offered the same jobs in Union Twp. at the office’s new Clermont County Workforce One location, said Clermont job center Director Ted Groman.

“We’re housing it with the expectation the director will work in all three counties,” Groman said.

However, Jeff Weber, executive director of the Workforce Investment Board for 11 years, resigned.

“I just didn’t want to continue in it,” Weber said.

Even though Weber and the assistant’s wages are shared by the counties, they’re considered employees of the counties where they work, said Pat South, Warren County commissioner and investment board member. A different pay scale in Clermont County meant Weber would have had a significant pay cut, South said.

“The pay scales between Butler County and Clermont County are drastically different,” she said.

Clermont County pays a $61,000 base salary for the position, not including benefits, Groman said. Butler County paid Weber $96,112 a year as of May, according to the county.

Additionally, the board is searching for a new chair, likely to be one of the existing board members, said John R. Nelson, serving as acting chair. Nelson is assistant dean of administrative services of University of Cincinnati Clermont.

“The chair needs to be someone from the private sector,” Nelson said. “Ideally we really want someone who has an interest in serving the community.”

Dan Sack, president of Middletown’s Omnicom Solutions Group, resigned as chair June 30. He had made a two-year commitment.

Julia Abell, senior director, employment human resources of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, was named to become chair to fill Sack’s place. However, she resigned as vice chair. She could not be reached.

Work force development operations in the three counties and the investment board received a total more than $5 million this fiscal year from federal Workforce Investment Act dollars, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which allocates the funding.

Board members volunteer their time.

“The fundamental basis of all of this is having an economy that’s healthy and growing. The economy grows when there are employers who have positions open that need workers,” Nelson said. “The landscape basically says now there are jobs out there but there’s a technical skills gap. That’s one big part of work force development is to make sure people get retooled and retrained.”

STATE CHANGES UNDERWAY

Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s administration is working to reorganize the state’s work force development system, which is considered fragmented and unorganized.

“Talk and plans (are) being discussed on possibly making the existing work force regions coincide with the new economic development regions,” said Commissioner South.

Under JobsOhio, the agency created in 2011 to lead the state’s business retention and recruitment efforts, the state is split into six regions. Butler and Warren counties are divided along Ohio 63 into two regions—one headed by Dayton Development Coalition and one headed by Cincinnati USA Partnership. If work force development was realigned to coincide with JobsOhio regions, that could mean Butler, Clermont and Warren counties would partner with Hamilton and Brown counties, South said.

Clermont County’s Groman said, “We’ve spoken with the state. Their advice was to not wait for direction out of Columbus. We should still go forward with our plans to hire a permanent director.”

Candidates are being interviewed, and a new executive director for the Workforce One Investment board should be named this month, Groman said.

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