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Joint effort

WINDSOR – They will continue to push jobs and economic growth.

This comes from Region-Q Workforce Development Board Chairman Walter Dorsey when he gave an organizational update to the Bertie County Board of Commissioners at their Aug. 3 meeting.

With Bryant Buck’s appointment as Director of the Mid-East Commission (MEC) on July 1, the MEC will work with the five counties in the region (Hertford, Bertie, Martin, Beaufort, and Pitt) in implementing the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a program that replaces the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) which the Commission handled for nearly 30 years.

Region Q Workforce Investment Consortium, a public-private partnership, administers a five county system of workforce development programs that prepare citizens for the workforce, including those who are facing economic disadvantage, job loss, and other barriers to employment.

Serving the five counties, these programs also provide a central point for businesses for listing jobs, applicant screening and development of training systems. The Workforce Development Board (WDB) develops policy and oversees these programs.

The counties have also agreed to work jointly as a consortium that will promote economic development in the region.  Buck and Dorsey presented the consortium agreement to the Commissioners in May and the Board approved Resolution and Articles of Association for the WIOA as recommended.

“All five counties have ratified the agreement, so it’s in full force and effect,” Dorsey told the Commissioners.

Dorsey also reported that in adult expenditures, the WDB came in at 89 percent of its program dollars out of $1,206,000.  He said similar groups across the state only reach 80 percent.

“So we’re in really good shape,” he added.

As for any funds that remain after disbursement, Dorsey said after a two-year period, the money is re-distributed through re-programming.  He further said it was good news that because of so few plant closings or major lay-offs in the region, dislocated worker funds were held to 72 percent out of $902,000.  A total of $1,030,000 was spent for youth employment training and education.

Workforce Board membership, made up of 19 members from the five counties of Region-Q, has altered membership guidelines.  The changes come as Bertie has one certain open slot – and possibly a second – on the board to be filled.   The board consists of two business representatives from each county (10), with the other nine members made up from small businesses, women, and minorities; all appointed by the County Commissioners.

“I leave this to (you) how you wish to dispose of that,” Dorsey said. “Whether you want to make contact or whatever; I don’t give names, I’ll work and serve with whoever is picked at the pleasure of the board.”

The Bertie vacancy is for a representative from organized labor, and the other could be coming from the private sector. Dorsey said he hoped the Bertie Commissioners could make their county’s appointment as soon as possible to make the next scheduled bi-monthly meeting in Williamston. Meeting months are January, March, May, September, and November.

“The next (Workforce) Board meeting is second Wednesday in September,” he reminded, “so I hope you can move as quickly on that.

Commissioner John Trent requested clarity on an ‘organized labor’ rep, and Dorsey said state employees’ organizations and national teacher’s groups would qualify.

“Somebody even mentioned the Postal Service,” he replied. “It’s a lot looser than it once was. I like to use organized labor because we don’t have that many.”

Chairman Ronald “Ron” Wesson inquired about attendance and participation.

“If we’re going to put people on, we want to make sure they’re going to be active, and if they’re not active we want to know about it because we’ll put somebody on who will,” Wesson stated.

“I agree with you,” Dorsey replied. “With this small board we keep them engaged, but they need to be there.”

He went on to state Bertie reps have been attending meetings, barring health issues and conflicts, which he said have been few.

Dorsey said the growth sectors for jobs in Bertie County, as well as across northeastern North Carolina – called the Northeastern Partnership – were in health care, advanced manufacturing, agri-science and bio-technology.

“You have a number of those representative companies in your county,” Dorsey maintained.

The Commissioners complimented Dorsey and the WDC, despite the challenges, for the work they’ve done.

“We’ve got good people all around the region, this isn’t just one person it’s a team,” Dorsey concluded.