Editor’s Note: “The Economic Development Side” originally appears in the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s weekly member e-newsletter. It is written by Rhonda Dishner, the Economic Development Alliance’s executive assistant.


An inhouse office project to purge some old paper files recently became an exercise in remembering the past. And brought the realization that some things haven’t changed — unfortunately.


Take for instance the contents of one file cabinet. An entire drawer was stuffed with information about workforce development, training and education programs either proposed, planned or implemented here from about 1995 through around the year 2000. To make room for more current files, these old ones really needed to go.


The neatly tabbed folders held reams of documents about scores of “important” meetings to address the pressing need for a skilled labor force for “the future” (which is now, by the way). Accompanying the invitation memos were lists of the officials, educators, industry executives and business leaders who were being invited to attend discussions about skills that appeared to the lacking locally.


There were a lot of meetings.


And interspersed with the meeting memos were invitations to be a part of focus groups, summits, roundtables, partnerships, committees, task forces, collaboratives, teams, alliances and initiatives, all focused on positive change in workforce development to improve the economy.


Staff members of the Alliance were participants in a majority of these efforts because, even then, it was recognized that education was a key to growth of the local economy and job creation. Training mattered then, and it matters now.


There are actually two “unfortunatelys” here, though. Unfortunately, there was a significant amount of time and effort expended to create the documents that were stored for two decades and just last week went into the recycle bin. And unfortunately, there is still an urgent need for similar meetings today, in 2017, because no magic remedy has come along to eliminate the issue of a local workforce not totally prepared for work. (But it is a national and global problem too.)


There are meetings in the community today with manufacturing executives to find out what skills industry needs, meetings with local educational institutions to pass along these skills requirements of industry, meetings about job shadowing programs and internships for young people, meetings to plan employability training as identified in the Go Forward Pine Bluff initiative, meetings about the construction and trade training program instituted by Pine Bluff Rising, meetings to introduce high school students to manufacturing, meetings about educational after-school programs, meetings about successful programs from other communities that have promise for use in Pine Bluff, and meetings about assisting the unemployed get job ready.


Yes, there is still a need for assuring that a high-quality current and future workforce exists here and that skills-development programs are implemented to help the unemployed and underemployed in our community.


At least today, computer-file documents and memos don’t take up space in the file cabinet — unless they are printed for filing away!