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Workforce Effort Boosts Skilled Talent in Maury County

Newly launched initiative focuses on the future of employees in Maury County.

By Bill Lewis on May 19, 2023

Maury County Public Schools
Jack Cobb

Maury County has a proven record of attracting employers looking for the perfect place to build for the future. Now, the ALIGN Maury workforce development initiative is taking steps to make sure the county has a diverse workforce with the skills and training to fill the jobs those businesses create.

“ALIGN Maury is about coming together to talk about workforce development and creating a vision,” says Dennis Fisher, chairman of the initiative and chief human resources officer for Maury Regional Health.

Aligning a Bright Future

In 2020, the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance partnered with Boyette Strategic Advisors to assess the county’s workforce assets and labor market competitiveness. ALIGN Maury has quickly moved beyond planning to the implementation phase of its initial priorities.

They include development of the Southern Regional Technology Center (SRTC) at Columbia State Community College, formation of a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) advisory panel, talent attraction and a child care needs assessment to help parents enter and stay in the workforce.

Funding for the Southern Regional Technology Center is a notable early success.

“This $50 million state-of-the-art training center was successfully funded in the governor’s most recent budget. Design work has already begun and the facility is projected to be online in late 2025,” says Travis Groth, vice president of economic development for the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance.

Investing in Maury County

The SRTC is considered so crucial to the county’s workforce development that the community is offering financial support. For example, Maury Regional Health pledged $500,000, and National HealthCare Corp. is donating $100,000.

Pipeline to Industry

The center will create opportunities for high school students and graduates to explore potential careers and create pathways to the workforce.

“The SRTC will bring opportunities for education and training necessary to strengthen workforce skills,” said Bethany Lay, Columbia State vice president for advancement and executive director of the Columbia State Foundation, in a press release.

The SRTC is considered so crucial to Maury County’s workforce development efforts that the community, including its private employers, is offering financial support. Maury Regional Health, for example, pledged $500,000, and National HealthCare Corp. is donating $100,000.

Career training for workers in health care and other industries “is going to be a huge plus. The programs are emboldening a community with practical skills,” Fisher says.

Work-based learning program in Maury County

Pathways to Careers

ALIGN Maury is also supporting Maury County Public Schools’ CTE programs by partnering on the launch of the Pathway2Careers website and a “Our Students, Your Workforce” event, Groth says.

“Our students are our pipeline to Maury County industry. Therefore, it is important that we work extensively with ALIGN Maury to attract industry to Maury County to ensure that there are ample opportunities for our students to find gainful employment right here at home,” says Amy Roberts, director of college, career and technical education (CTE) for Maury County Public Schools.

Roberts serves on ALIGN Maury’s steering committee, along with Terri Thornton, the school system’s work-based learning coordinator.

ALIGN Maury’s DEI advisory panel is exploring ways to make sure the region is seen as a welcoming destination for workers and their families.

“We have to be ‘diversity capable,’ appealing to many peoples from different cultures. Not only just being accepting but being embracing of those many cultures,” Fisher says. “We’ve started the conversation, and we’re listening. If you’re respectful, empathetic and use humility, it expedites the speed of trust.”

DEI efforts are an important part of ALIGN Maury’s talent attraction campaign. “We’re going to need a diverse workforce, the skill mix,” Fisher says.

Child Care Options

Nonworking parents represent a reservoir of talent, but it can’t be fully tapped without the availability of affordable, high-quality child care. ALIGN Maury is working to identify potential service providers and funding resources.

“To be productive in a workplace, some things have to be foundational. Personal safety, safety for their kids,” Fisher says. “It would be naïve to think child care is not part of that. Not just child care, child learning centers.”

The impact of child care on the ability of parents to be productive on the job was highlighted by school closures during the pandemic. Parents often had to stay home with the kids instead of coming to the workplace.

The Boys & Girls Clubs stepped up and offered a safe place for staff members at Maury Regional Health to drop off their kids, Fisher says. “It is vital that we have convenient child care options for our families so that both parents can have careers if they so choose,” Roberts says.

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