In the age of coronavirus, virtual meetings, remote working and computer networking have never been more important.
Two local organizations that deal with workforce issues have taken that growing need and created a training program set to begin in 2021 with a goal of providing workers with the skills needed to thrive in the online world.
The Bowling Green-based South Central Workforce Development Board and Glasgow’s BC Skills Development Academy have teamed up to launch a Web Development Cohort that is scheduled to begin training in Bowling Green in January.
“We know jobs in website development and computer coding are growing even more now because of the pandemic,” said Robert Boone, president and chief executive of the 10-county workforce development board. “There are a lot of solutions being developed that are virtual because our world has changed so much.”
So the workforce board itself is changing its focus to meet current needs.
Using funds from a $170,000 federal grant, Boone plans to put together a cohort of 30 or more students who will participate in a 15-week program aimed at training them, at little or no cost, for high-tech jobs that often pay $60,000 or more per year.
“We want to be on the front end of these jobs being developed,” Boone said. “If you don’t have the workforce ready, it’s not likely that these types of jobs will locate here.”
The program is geared toward helping individuals whose careers have been affected by the pandemic and who need additional training to reenter the workforce, Boone said.
“It’s designed to provide a quick reentry into the workforce,” he said.
Boone is narrowing down possible sites for the training in Bowling Green, but he already has the instruction lined up through the partnership with the BC Skills academy that is now in its third year.
Part of the Barren County school system, BC Skills was created to train high school students and adults who are looking for high-tech careers.
“We train individuals specifically for entry into the new technology workforce,” said Justin Browning, the BC Skills project manager.
That training normally takes place on the Barren County High School campus, but it isn’t exclusively for high school students. Browning said BC Skills has trained 63 students who range in age from 16 to 43 and come from multiple counties.
Browning said the program that was started by local philanthropists and receives funding from the Barren County Industrial Development Economic Authority hasn’t yet taken any training to a satellite location. He believes the partnership with the workforce board is the ideal way to extend the reach of BC Skills.
“Multiple organizations have talked to us about bringing our instruction to them, but this is the best fit we’ve found,” said Browning, formerly a math and computer science teacher at BCHS. “Dr. Boone and I have been exploring this for the past year.”
In addition to building a workforce with the skills needed to attract high-tech companies, Boone believes the partnership with BC Skills can help spur entrepreneurial activity in the region.
“There are a lot of opportunities in the gig or freelance economy,” Boone said. “A lot of times what stops someone from going into business for themselves is the initial capital needed.
“With web-based careers, there’s not that much capital involved. It allows people to jump into entrepreneurial activities more quickly.”
The workforce board is accepting applications for the initial Web Development Cohort at the southcentralwork force.com website.
While aiming for a January start for the in-person training, Boone said the workforce board remains flexible during the pandemic.
“Ideally, we want it to be in-person,” he said. “But we can do it online of maybe push back the start date.”
– More information about the BC Skills Development Academy can be found at the bcskills.org website.
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.