SOD chief focusing on workforce development

LISBON — Julie Needs, the executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center in Salem, talked to the county Port Authority board last week about the workforce development program through the SOD Center.

Needs told the board she has been working and collaborating with Executive Director Penny Traina and the team at the Port Authority on growth opportunities in Salem. The SOD Center has a mission to support the attraction of business and entrepreneurship.

But Needs said SOD has really been focusing on workforce development, giving area businesses a location to train employees and even helping to find the people to provide some specialized training. Having the training at the SOD Center allows small businesses to share the cost of hiring a trainer.

She pointed out companies need to be preparing to fill the leadership gaps being left by a retiring workforce. New employees often need training because they may lack the skills to join the workforce, maintain that employment and realize their importance to their employer. Training includes soft skills and conflict resolution.

She said the SOD Workforce Development office even provides math tutoring as employers have found people applying for their jobs may have many skills, but do not have the ability to successfully complete a math test past addition and subtraction.

Since the Workforce Development program began in November 2018, Needs said they have provided 29 courses and workshops and collaborated in hosting two job fairs that resulted in 23 new hires. In total, 594 people living in 43 different zip codes have been served, as well as 35 companies with 1448 contact hours.

Needs answered questions board members had about the program, with chairman Charlie Presley asking about the numbers of jobs available in the area. Needs said while not everyone advertises on the same job sites, she knows of at least 1,100 jobs available within a five-mile radius of Salem. Needs said nearly everyone she talks to is hiring.



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