By Zachary Horner, The Sanford Herald.
SANFORD - The back of the program for Monday morning's (4/3/17) Lee County Certified Work Ready Celebration had a quote from Henry Ford.
"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success," it read.
The quote followed the theme of the agenda to follow, as speakers repeatedly followed the theme of collaboration to celebrate Lee County's designation by the state as a "Work Ready Community."
The designation program was begun in 2011 as a collaboration between the N.C. Chamber Foundation and the state Department of Commerce, Community College System and Department of Public Instruction. To be recognized, counties must show that they link workforce development to education, align with the economic development needs of the region and match individuals to jobs based on skill levels.
Lee County earned the designation in December 2016, and elected officials and other business leaders were presented with a certificate Monday from Meaghan Lewis, the government affairs manager for the N.C. Chamber Foundation.
"Today's presentation signifies our shared responsibility and commitment to the future of our state as we focus on today's workforce needs," she said. "The NCWorks Certified Work Ready Community initiative is a statewide collective effort to fill the talent pipeline for jobs that are in demand. It provides a framework to empower counties with the data, processes and tools that drive economic growth."
Lee County's certification came as a result of a collaborative effort between Lee County Schools, Central Carolina Community College and the Sanford Area Growth Alliance. Representatives from each hammered home the role collaboration played in the honor.
Schools' Superintendent Andy Bryan said the recognition was "a true community achievement and partnership," singling out the influence that business plays in education.
"The Work Ready certificate is certainly something that we're very proud of and it simplifies what I believe this community stands for -- the idea that we work together and partner together to move forward and to make our community better and to make it a great place to live," Bryan said. "We're very, very lucky to have a wonderful community, but more importantly, also great businesses who are here to support this. That is always the final vital piece of this."
CCCC President T. Eston Marchant highlighted the idea that Lee County was "open for business," and pointed to the work on the CCCC bond projects nearby as a sign of that.
"The fact that there is dirt moving is part of what this community means to workforce development," he said. "We are ready for businesses to take advantage of what we have to offer. The businesses of Lee County have committed, through this program, to develop our talent and to use our talent locally. This is a great day, this is a great initiative, but this is only part of what makes our county great."
Joy Thrash, the CEO of SAGA, praised the "collaborative effort" that brought about the certification.
"This program works because all of the partners participated in their areas of expertise," she said.
"Most communities are letting everyone know that they have a workforce ready community. But when we have a certification like this, that starts the message for us and validates us as a community before we ever start speaking."
Pamela Senegal, the Vice President of Economic and Community Development at CCCC, highlighted the numerous businesses that were certified as "Work Ready Employers" at the event.
"Lee County embodies everything that is amazing about workforce development, about what it means to partner, about what it means to be committed to our future," she said. "This today is really just a celebration and really just the cherry on top of all that we do in Lee County."
Zachary Horner, The Sanford Herald. Various Lee County officials were part of receiving the Work Ready Community certification Monday. Included were (left to right) Broadway Commissioner Janet Harrington, Sanford Area Growth Alliance CEO Joy Thrash, Lee County Board of Commissioners Chair Amy Dalrymple, Central Carolina Community College President T. Eston Marchant, Lee County Schools Superintendent Andy Bryan, N.C. Chamber Foundation Government Affairs Manager Meghan Lewis, Lee County Board of Education member Ophelia Livingston, Lee County Board of Education Chair Mark Akinosho, Sanford City Council member Rebecca Wyhof, Sanford Mayor Pro Tem Sam Gaskins, Lee County Commissioner Larry "Doc" Oldham and Lee County Board of Education Vice Chair Patrick Kelly.