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Thompson Excited About Plans for Macon-Bibb County Office of Workforce Development

by Amanda Smith

iThe Macon-Bibb Office of Workforce Development welcomes its new Executive Director, Kathy Thompson. Thompson, who responded to a national job announcement, was hired by the Board of Macon-Bibb County Workforce Investment, of which Jonathan Alderman is the Chairman. Thompson began her position on July 20, 2011.

Kathy Thompson received her Bachelor's Degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama; her Master's Degree in Public Administration from Auburn University and her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University, Center for Public Policy. She served as Professor of Political Science at the University of Richmond where she taught courses in public policy; public administration; leadership; and women in politics. Thompson's research focused on workforce development and its intersection with economic and local regional cooperation.

With over 25 years experience in local and state government and higher education, Thompson brings a level of expertise and knowledge combined with new ideas and practices to the Macon-Bibb County Office of Workforce Development. "Our focus has changed from the traditional job-matching and training services to developing a sector approach to connecting workers to employers," said Thompson. "We want to connect job seekers with employers as a group or industry sector to access high skilled and high paid jobs. The traditional job matching resulted mostly in individuals being placed in low-wage jobs without opportunity for growth," she continued. "Our goal is to connect every job seeker to employers that will lead to a career and high wages. We want to be known as the source in the community for talented, skilled workers and as a reliable source for employers."

Thompson identifies the problems that must be addressed in order to function successfully in workforce development. These are

- The high drop-out rate for high school students. The Macon-Bibb County Office of Workforce Development has initiated the Career Coach Program in conjunction with the Bibb County School System to combat this issue. "We have high school drop-outs because young people do not see themselves as going to college and they do not view what they are learning in school as relevant to how they view their future," Thompson said. "We must empower students to make informed decisions about their careers and prepare students for success in postsecondary education and training."

- What about those who have already dropped out of school? The Office of Workforce Development has collaborated with Central Georgia Technical College, Adult Basic Education to create an accelerated GED program. "We will start with 15 individuals who are between the ages of 19 and 21 and who are motivated toward finding a career," said Thompson. "We will take them from nothing to a GED, career planning, industry certification, Work Ready certificate and A JOB in six months."

- To become more responsive to the needs of employers, the Office of Workforce Development has collaborated with the Economic Development Commission to develop the Business Service Center to create a seamless approach to addressing the workforce needs of existing and new employers.

Clearly, collaboration is crucial and Thompson has facilitated this by joining with the Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Development Committee and the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, Economic Development Roundtable. "We have talked to employers who are having trouble finding skilled workers and are hiring from other states," said Thompson. "We want employers in the region to first consider the highly skilled job seekers we have trained before they look outside of Georgia."

The Office of Workforce Development has also initiated a quarterly job fair in which potential employees can screen for positions that they have an interested in and for which they have the skills. "At our last job fair, we started with more than 60 people who called in, interested in the fair," said Sheknita Davis, Adults/Dislocated Workers Coordinator. "We screened those down to 30 with face to face interviews and finally down to 11 individuals who participated in the job fair. Of those 11, 7 have been offered positions with the companies that were represented," she said.

The next industry sector job fair will be held in June; interested parties can attend a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) orientation provided every Friday at 10:30am at the Macon Department of Labor on Mercer University Drive and can find ads for the Office of Workforce Development there as well.

"We are very excited about the new approach, collaborations and initiatives that focus on employers and job seekers," said Thompson. "We will better connect employers and workers and the end result will be a career in a high demand occupation with high wages rather than just a job."

Kathy Thompson
Kathy Thompson