After starting as a staff of one when he was hired in 2017 to lead the South Central Workforce Development Board, Robert Boone now has a growing workforce of his own.
Boone, president and CEO of the Bowling Green-based workforce board, will soon have a staff of nine after action was taken at Thursday’s meeting of the WDB’s executive committee.
Thanks in part to partnerships with two of the state’s other workforce boards, Boone has procured grants totaling $885,082 that will allow him to add positions dealing with workforce reentry, apprenticeships, post-secondary programming and quality assurance.
The WDB executive committee approved the addition of five positions Thursday, adding to the four (counting Boone) already on the staff of the workforce board that has its headquarters next to Knicely Center at Western Kentucky University’s South Campus.
“I’m excited to see the continued evolvement of the services Dr. Boone has been able to bring to the workforce board,” said Ron Sowell, the WDB’s chairman. “This will enhance the workforce services available to businesses at a time when it’s hard to find employees.”
Boone explained that he formed a partnership with the 23-county Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program to procure grant funding from the Kentucky Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development. The grant will allow each workforce board to hire two apprenticeship directors to work with employers and job seekers to implement the state’s Registered Apprenticeship program.
The grant will enable Boone to bring to the WDB staff two apprenticeship coordinators now on the staff of the Career Team service provider located at the Kentucky Career Center on Chestnut Street.
He explained that the move will allow much of the approximately $1.7 million the workforce board receives in federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funding to be used by Career Team for something other than personnel.
“We’ll be able to put that money back into programming,” he said.
Another partnership, this one with the Somerset-based Cumberlands workforce board, will allow the local WDB and the Cumberlands WDB to each add a reentry coordinator to work with programs for current and former prison inmates and other long-term unemployed people.
“There’s someone doing this type of work at Career Team,” Boone said. “We can transfer that person over to the workforce board staff and put them in more of a regional role.”
Some of the grant funding will be used for another new position, director of post-secondary programming. Boone said this staff member will work primarily with WKU and Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College students, with a goal of connecting them with jobs in the 10-county region covered by the WDB.
“We have challenges with placing local graduates in local jobs,” Boone said. “This person will be a liaison who will introduce students to opportunities in the Bowling Green area.”
A final new WIOA-funded staff position, quality assurance coordinator, will enable the workforce board to have a person dedicated to monitoring the WDB’s various programs and services to ensure quality and compliance with state and federal guidelines.
“We have a quality assurance position now at Career Team,” Boone said. “That position will be transferred from Career Team to the workforce board. The monitoring role should be led by the workforce board.”
Boone said the grant funding is an example of his plan to be less reliant on WIOA funding that can vary from year to year.
“WIOA funding is based on a formula,” he said. “Regions with lower unemployment receive fewer funds, so I anticipate our portion getting smaller and smaller. It’s imperative for us to find other sources of funding.”
That can take the form of grants from government agencies or nonprofit foundations, but Boone said funding can also come from fees the workforce board might charge for certain services.
“We need a product line, some type of fee-for-service program for work that’s above and beyond what we’re already getting funding for,” Boone said. “An organization like ours needs a product line that enables us to diversify.”