EVANSTON — Uinta BOCES No. 1 Director Mike Williams presented at the Feb. 14 Evanston Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Williams is a member of the Southwest Wyoming Manufacturing Partnership and spoke on the Next Generation (Next Gen) Sector Partnerships.
Williams, who has been the BOCES director for 15 years and has served on the Uinta County Economic Development Commission, said he is very excited about the new partnership with all of the agencies and organizations involved in Next Gen. He said that in the past, the service providers have dictated to business and industry, and this new approach does just the opposite.
According to the Next Gen website, the goal is an “Industry led, community-supported partnership in order to strengthen regional economies and connect people to jobs.”
There are nine regions identified in the state with several counties included in most of those regions. Each region decides on what area of concern they want to focus.
The Southwest Wyoming region Williams is working with involves Uinta, Sweetwater, Lincoln, Sublette, and Carbon counties. These counties have chosen manufacturing/industry has their first priority sector to work on. According to Williams, manufacturing has a broad definition in this area, including utilities, computer companies and oil and gas, among others.
At their meeting on Oct. 4, 2018, 21 industries came together to discuss what the needs are in order to diversify the economy and build a workforce. Ten dedicated employers from industry are still actively involved, Williams said.
Experts in workforce development, education and economic development meet with the industry leaders, but only as observers — they are not allowed to participate in the discussion. The goal is to put the employers in the center and let them tell the service providers what they need, Williams said. Those experts come from the Wyoming Workforce Development Council, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Department of Education and the Wyoming Community College Commission.
Next Gen’s immediate focus is to grow good jobs and connect people with good jobs. The first goal is to develop a qualified talent pool educated in life and technical skills.
Williams said there is a huge demand for technical skills. He said that often there are not as many qualified people with technical skills as there are those with higher education degrees.
“Second, in order to change the marketing image of southwest Wyoming, internally we need to shift negative mindsets and externally we need to promote what the region does offer,” Williams said.
The third goal identified by industry is immediate improvement and support for infrastructure: electricity, local broadband, affordable housing, quality health care and recreation. Industry is also working with the state to make improvements in fiber optics throughout Wyoming.
Williams said the committee is working with Western Wyoming Community College to get certified technical training in place and specifically to get training located here in Evanston.
“We will be getting back together in two weeks to go over a plan to implement the three goals identified. Health care will be the next focus for Next Gen Sector Partnership to work on,” Williams concluded.
Prior to Williams’ presentation, Best Home Health & Hospice employees were honored as the business of the month. Chamber director Tammy Halliday presented the four employees attending with a plaque and a welcome.
Best Home Health has served Southwest Wyoming since 2004. The company was founded in Evanston and has since opened office locations in Bridger Valley, Green River and Rock Springs.