A community effort: Jackson County Workforce Partnership celebrates 20 years


What once was seen as a problem in this community no longer exists.

It was in the late 1990s and the economy was doing well, but Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. discovered one problem: Local education officials and industry leaders were disconnected.

Industry leaders didn’t know what schools offered, and schools didn’t know what skills local industry needed.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

That discovery led to the organization, founded in 1984, to develop the Jackson County Workforce Partnership program to help bridge the miscommunication.

The Jackson County Workforce Partnership recently celebrated its 20th year, spanning two decades of bringing community leaders together to make a stronger workforce.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride, and it’s been exciting getting all the partners together,” said Jackie Hill, workforce director for JCIDC. “I’m a true believer in partners, and I don’t think there is one entity to do it all because it takes several partners at the table.”

Hill leads the partnership with help from coordinator Jody Deckard, and together, the two help continue to complete its mission.

“They communicate programs really well and work with leaders on how they will be implemented,” said Jim Plump, executive director of JCIDC.

Eighteen companies participate in the partnership along with local government entities and other organizations.

“In addition to those 18 industries, there are another 10 or so that are involved in varying degrees,” he said.

The partnership was the focal point of JCIDC’s annual recent Reports, Reviews and Rewards Luncheon. Each of the partners was recognized for their commitment to the program.

The luncheon kept with a theme of the partnership’s anniversary by inviting Blair Milo to speak.

Milo serves as the state’s first secretary of career connections and talent, a position created by Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2017. The office aims to accomplish similar goals as the local partnership with the goal of filling 1 million jobs in the next 10 years.

She said the partnership is successful because of strong local leadership.

“Every area is always a bit different, but I would say that Jackson County has really stepped up its game in being able to provide a lot of different work-based learning opportunities, different partnerships,” she said. “The leadership helps the creativity, the innovation, and the collaboration is really exciting.”

The partnership has led to a host of programs aimed at developing skills and industry needs in local schools.

Owl Manufacturing is one of the latest and biggest examples of how the organization has bridged education with the needs of a developed workforce.

The program, started in the 2016 school year with help from the partnership, has grown at an unbelievable rate with 42 students enrolled in the program this school year. It began with 15 students.

The students produce products with three-dimensional printing that have been sold to private businesses. The class even made the awards for partners honored during JCIDC’s event.

They also offer other skills associated with manufacturing like marketing, accounting, purchasing and more.

That’s just one example of the partnership’s reach.

The organization has been instrumental in starting local robotics clubs and classes in schools throughout Jackson County. The robotics program helps students learn engineering and programming skills that are valued by local industry.

Many school teams participate in competitions throughout the year, and Jackson County even hosts a tournament for multiple schools. A summer camp was even offered for elementary students this year.

The partnership also helped start the iGrad program at Brownstown Central High School, which helps students do what they need to ensure graduation.

Those programs are what industry leaders look for when they do their next expansion or relocate here.

“If you make that connection while they’re still in school and that employer can stay connected with that young person — even when they go off to college — you can possibly retain them,” Hill said.

Plump agreed.

“This is the lifeblood of the next generation of where their workforce will come from,” he said.

Plump said the programs are so much different than when the partnership began.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of success as it relates to the pipeline of workers,” he said. “The kids in school today are being exposed so much more to the availability of jobs that are available and what the skills they need.”

Instead of a learning curve of starting a new job, students now acquire skills in the classroom.

Much has changed over the course of 20 years, but the goal of mirroring curriculum with industry needs has always been the same.

Plump said the partnership is some of the most important work the organization does.

“I think the partnership has done a wonderful job, and it truly is the most important thing we do these days,” he said. “Our efforts to attract new industry and work with industry on expansion is difficult if you don’t have the workforce.”

Plump said it’s one of the reasons JCIDC has only fallen short on its target of $50 million promised investment once in the last 10 years. That was in 1999 during the Great Recession when there was only $22 million in promised investment in Jackson County.

So far in 2018, Jackson County has seen $82 million in promised investment.

Plump said he thinks the partnership will continue to get stronger because of leadership and return industry and educators see.

Hill agreed and said she will continue to bring partners together to meet the challenges they face.

“I’m not HR and I’m not education, but I can bring the partners to the table and help it happen,” she said. “I can also find other partners and bring them to the conversation.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Jackson County Workforce Partnership members

20 years

Excel Manufacturing


Lannett Co.

Aisin USA Mfg. Inc.

City of Seymour

Seymour Tubing

Aisin Drivetrain

Excel Tool


Walmart Distribution Center

Other partners

RR Donnelley

Cummins Seymour Engine Plant


Particle Dynamics

Brownstown Quality Tool and Design

The Royal Group

E&H Tubing

Aisin Holdings of America

O&k American Corp.

Rose Acre Farms

Community partners

Community Foundation of Jackson County

Duke Energy

Elwood Staffing

Schneck Medical Center

Brownstown Central Community School Corp.

Jackson County Education Coalition

Seymour Community School Corp.

Community Education Coalition

Jackson County Visitor Center


No posts to display