Paul Stelter stepped into the role of CEO of the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board one year ago. Stelter, who succeeded Cheryl Welch, sat down with Insight Editor Margaret LeBrun to talk about strategic initiatives of the FVWDB and how the organization serves as a connector between employers and job seekers.
My career has been in human resources as a generalist in talent management and in career transition. As a result it’s given me a very good perspective of employer and business needs. Prior to taking this role (Fox Valley Workforce Development Board CEO) I was talent development director at MAGA Industrial Automation Systems; we would know it as Giddings & Lewis in Fond du Lac (now Fives Group).
Top of mind for me are three things: Continuing to deepen the relationships we have with businesses and our partners in the community, to make sure that the services and training we provide fit the needs of the communities we serve, and empowering our staff to be successful. We’re also starting to implement the strategic planning process that our board of directors has just completed.
A lot of people confuse the Workforce Development Board as being part of the state. While it is true most of our funding comes from the government, we are a private, not-for-profit organization. The majority of our funding comes to us from the Workforce Investment Act and that in turn is used to fund programs for dislocated workers, disadvantaged adults and youth. We’re connecting with employers to truly understand their needs so that we can provide the right direction and training to that population.
Sometime before I joined the board, it was recognized we had more space in our building than we were using. In the last six months, we found a good tenant who has rented a significant portion of the building. It has allowed us to work with our partners, to get out into the community and rent meeting space as we need it throughout the six counties we serve.
One of the key roles we can play is as a catalyst and a connector between employers and workforce development opportunities. Our board is made up of a broad section of individuals from various industries across the six counties. They provide to us a pulse as to what is going on in the various sectors and industries out there.
Recently we’ve helped facilitate learning sessions for area employers on the Wisconsin Fast Forward program so they can tap into the training resources now available to them.
Fast Forward is a demand-driven process. It is specifically looking for the needs of employers and using that information to drive the training that might be provided.
I see two challenges. The short-term one is there are certain industries where good jobs are going vacant because the employer cannot find qualified candidates to fill the opening, at a time when unemployment is still running at a relatively high level. We are starting to see some employers concluding they may be better off hiring somebody who has a good work ethic, and training that person to fill the job. The key is that employers and job seekers see that training is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process.
The longer-term concern is the baby boomer retirement exodus. Employers are looking at their demographics and realizing there will be significant numbers of people leaving their workforce in the next five to 10 years.
That’s why I’ve been encouraged to see many programs like youth apprentice programs and boot camps so that youth and people who are looking at careers get as broad of an exposure to as many opportunities as they possibly can.
Perhaps the most important skill people can have is the ability to continue to learn. The world of work and the world in general will change so much in our lifetimes that we have to adapt if we want to survive and be successful.