By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
New Central Texas Workforce Board chairman Jim Granfor, who has been on the job for two months, wants to prepare the labor force for an expected "explosion" in development in the next few years to ensure that local youths are ready for jobs that are really there and to make sure new companies – whether based elsewhere or homegrown – don't have to import all their labor force elsewhere.
"We're on the verge of an explosion in growth in this area,"
Granfor predicted. "And we don't want schools and trainers turning out people either unqualified or qualified for something without a local market, just to be stuck in low-paying jobs while businesses have to search the country for the people they need. We need schools and businesses working together to see that we get what we need here and now."
Granfor, a longtime member of the board, was chair-elect under Charles Hardgrave.
Granfor is the human resources manager for Materials Transportation Co. in Temple and a veteran leader in the Central Texas Human Resource Management Association and allied groups.
After spending 20 years in the Air Force, he got a degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and worked as a counselor with the Texas Employment Commission for a year before its system was changed to a connection of 28 locally governed boards across the state.
"(Then-Gov. George W.) Bush identified our customer as the employer," he said. "Demand in the equation is employers, and the supply is people. We have to have the kind of supply that meets the demand. We used to just throw resumes at employers to see what stuck. Now we're trying to refine our processes so that everything will stick.
"Employers used to see the old Texas Employment Commission as the unemployment system,' and some still do, but we're slowly turning that around."
The CTWB supervises offices in Killeen, Temple, Cameron, Copperas Cove, Rockdale and Lampasas.
"Go onto a high school campus and ask the students what they plan to do, and all of them will say they want to go to college. But then the ones who make it have to get a job and wind up taking anything they can get.
"What we need," Granfor said, "is synergy between employers and schools so that the workforce centers can refer people for appropriate training. And it helps if employers can provide or refer people to training, too."
He said another facet of the solution is testing young people to find out how their interests translate in the workplace.
"If they train for something they don't like," he observed, "they may be successful for a while, but they won't stick with it. For example, I majored in accounting, but testing showed me I needed to be working with people, and I've been happy ever I moved over to that."
The board has grown since 1996 to 27 members with business and educational institutions strongly represented.
Executive director Susan Kamas said, "We have a very high caliber of people now. A strategy session is scheduled Jan. 25, and these used to take two days. Now we can get the business accomplished in one day, and we need to, because most of them can't afford to take two days off."
She said the board is far less concerned than previously with management of the individual centers and more with forming policy to make the whole system effective.
Granfor said constant communication is the key. "A study may show that what we need is more restaurant workers. But then if we call a meeting of employers, they may say there's a crying need for welders, for example. Then we go to the schools and tell them we need more vocational education in welding, in particular.
"Due to changes in technology, you hear that there's no way to predict what jobs will look like in the future, and that has special meaning for us because this area is more high-tech than most. Somebody has to know what those jobs will look like. We have to find out.
"It's a heck of a balancing act," Granfor acknowledged. "We have to get employers to keep opening up about what they need, and the board should oversee training programs to see that we don't get a grant to train technicians and find later that half of it went for clerical help.
"The bottom line," he said, "is to train so that employers can get their needs met and employees can get good jobs that they like."
The Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce and allied agencies focus on a different angle–using the skills of people who are already here as separating or retiring soldiers. The chamber is working on implementing a study by TIP Strategies that identified skills among the military in business services, health care, information technology and logistics and transportation.
In the case of logistics and transportation, GKCC president John Crutchfield said, "Manufacturers don't want to warehouse their own products anymore, so distribution centers have become a science. Military specialists have already become scientists at it, because they deploy.
"We have many soldiers who want to stay in this area if they can find something to do, and we're trying to use this information to attract companies who need them.
"The increasing retirement of the baby boomers," Crutchfield said, "is going to create a labor shortage starting in the next few years. We need to make sure we have the right kind of labor and the right kind of companies to keep the local economy booming. And I've seen a lot of workforce boards, and this one here is at the very top."
Granfor added, "I don't get involved in things I don't see working for the better.
"Finally, I want a warm, fuzzy feeling that I helped prepare a person for a better job."
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org