Commissioners Agree To Create Workforce ‘Connector’ Position

Commissioners Agree To Create Workforce ‘Connector’ Position
File photo by Charlene Sharpe

SNOW HILL – County officials agreed this week to create a new economic development position to target workforce engagement.

After tabling a decision on the new position last month, the Worcester County Commissioners agreed on Tuesday to approve the position recommended by the county’s economic development department.

“A job is empowerment,” said Melanie Pursel, the county’s director of economic development and tourism. “A career is empowerment. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

Tom Perlozzo, the county’s director of recreation, parks, tourism and economic development, told the commissioners that the county had spent more than $500,000 for the development and operation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs during the last 10 years and had little to show for it. He said there’d been no follow-up reporting detailing the success of the program so he wanted to reallocate some of that funding by creating a new position. According to Perlozzo, the county’s job market skews 70% toward STAT (Skilled Trades, Agriculture, and Tourism) while most STEM jobs are on the other side of the state.

He acknowledged that the county’s previous STEM program had successfully placed interns. That, he said, could continue.

When asked how many STEM positions in Worcester County resulted from the previous program, Perlozzo said none had.

“As far as we can track we have not gotten anything back,” he said.

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said not all kids went to college and that he saw the potential success of a program promoting skilled trades.

“It’s a revenue neutral position as far as I can tell,” he said. “It’s something that would help the citizenry and the employers that are now here in Worcester County looking for HVAC techs or electricians or plumbers to work under them.”

Commissioner Diana Purnell expressed some concern about the proposal and said she didn’t quite understand its mission. Commissioner Jim Bunting questioned how the new position would interact with Worcester Technical High School, where there are already programs for many of the trades.

Pursel, who said she had a background in workforce development, said the new position would help connect the various resources.

“It’s beyond STEM or STAT,” she said. “It’s a connector.”

She said since most job center services were in Salisbury, Worcester County needed a presence. She said Worcester needed someone to work with the technical high school, with programs like Junior Achievement and with local workforce committees.

“To be the connector,” she said. “To find the opportunities.”

She said there were grants out there that weren’t being utilized and industry resources that people weren’t aware of. By expanding beyond STEM, she feels the county can do more for the local economy.

“We are bigger than that, more than that,” she said. “It’s not just about the program. It’s having an individual that has the resources, the wherewithal to make the connection.”

The commissioners voted 6-0 to create the new position.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.