Workforce Alliance Hosts Community Discussion to Target Increased Employment, Economic Opportunities in Glades Area

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Workforce Alliance hosted a meeting of local and state government officials and business leaders from the cities of South Bay, Belle Glade and Pahokee on Oct. 25, 2011, to discuss efforts to increase employment and economic opportunity in the Glades area. This was the second in a series of meetings hosted by Workforce Alliance as part of its ongoing commitment to increase employment and economic opportunity in the area and to collaborate with key area leaders in furthering these initiatives. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2012.

“We must zero in on training our citizens so they are ready for the jobs that provide livable wages.”
Shirley Walker-Turner, Mayor of South Bay, FL

Workforce Alliance, the nonprofit organization chartered by the state of Florida to create and lead workforce development in Palm Beach County, hosted a meeting of local and state government officials and business leaders from the cities of South Bay, Belle Glade and Pahokee on Oct. 25, 2011, to discuss efforts to increase employment and economic opportunity in the Glades area.

Steve Craig, interim chief executive officer of Workforce Alliance, hosted the meeting and stressed its importance. “The Glades region has an unemployment rate that more than doubles the rate for the remainder of the county,” he said. “I appreciate the attendance of the key leaders of the Glades communities because we are anxious to work with them to develop strategies that will bring more employment and economic opportunities to the area.”

In addition to the representatives, business leaders and government agencies from the Glades area, the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach County Office of Economic Development, Palm Beach State College, the Lake Okeechobee Regional Economic Alliance (LORE), and Workforce Alliance staff members also participated in the half-day conference. Steve Craig was joined by Denny Abbott, Workforce Alliance representative for the Belle Glade office, in leading the discussion that brought out many ideas from those in attendance.

Shirley Walker-Turner, mayor of South Bay, told the attendees, “We must zero in on training our citizens so they are ready for the jobs that provide livable wages.”

J.P. Sasser, mayor of Pahokee, said, “Most of our people are former farm workers and are unskilled for the jobs of today. We need a program of training in basic computer skills and other skills that are needed for the jobs that will be coming available.” He said that Pahokee is remodeling a recreation center to add an adult education area, and would like to find an organization that will donate computers so adults can learn how to search for jobs on the internet.

Gary Hines, senior vice president, Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, suggested that Workforce Alliance representatives and training providers of the county visit the Walgreen’s Distribution Center and Sysco to learn more about the skills needed to operate a distribution center. He said it is very likely that distribution centers similar to Walgreens and Sysco may locate in the 850-acre inland port after it is in operation.

Other topics covered at the meeting included the need to have companies certified for government-related contracts, developing a plan to assist the approximately 100 people expected to be laid off when the Glades Correctional Institute closes Dec. 1, 2011, getting broadband internet service for the communities, developing facilities and programs for training, using federal bonding for new hires with criminal records, and reversing the decline in boat traffic in Lake Okeechobee.

Daniel Liftman of U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings’ office, said the congressman is in contact with the Washington, D.C., office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address problems with Lake Okeechobee that have been hindering boating, fishing and commercial development. The congressman and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer toured the Workforce Alliance Career Center in Belle Glade Sept. 29, 2011, and discussed local and national job creation efforts.

The Oct. 25 meeting was the second in a series of meetings hosted by Workforce Alliance as part of its ongoing commitment to increase employment and economic opportunity in the Glades area, and to collaborate with key area leaders in furthering these initiatives. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2012.

Between June 2010 and July 2011, Workforce Alliance placed 1,416 candidates in jobs in the western communities and provided $432,000 in training funds to area residents.

Workforce Alliance operates career centers in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Belle Glade. The centers offer free workshops and other resources for job placement, job-skills training and career consulting. For more information about the comprehensive services available for employers and job seekers, visit http://www.pbcalliance.com or call 1-800-556-JOBS (5627).

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