Local News

New director faces challenges

SEBRING - Some people think that Heartland Workforce is responsible for unemployment compensation claims. Others believe Heartland Workforce matches specific people with specific jobs. Neither of those beliefs are true and Donna Doubleday, who became Heartland Workforce Board CEO and president on Monday, said one of her tasks is to educate people who have misconceptions. Doubleday replaces Roger Hood, who is retiring. She said the misconceptions came to light during a recent survey, as well as focus group meetings.
Some people thought Heartland Workforce is a government agency, when it's not, she said. Others felt that Heartland Workforce is a staffing agency for businesses, she said. But Heartland lacks the staff to do that, she said. When an employer comes to Heartland, Heartland will screen job seekers for minimum requirements, but it doesn't go further than that, she said. "We have no control over whether a person will show up for an interview," she said. Another misperception, she said, is that while Heartland has money available to help pay for employee training, some potential employers think that red tape in getting the money is prohibitive. "We have intentionally streamlined that paperwork as much as possible," she said. Besides getting rid of some misperceptions, Doubleday said, she faces other challenges. Three areas locally that provide challenges include a shortage of agricultural workers, a lack of short-term training and the difficulty for people with physical disabilities to find jobs, she said. Despite there being a lot of unemployed people, many are unwilling or unable to fill physically demanding agricultural jobs, she said. Finding a way to provide a program on a long-term basis that provides training for employees has been difficult, she said, as needs of businesses are different. Doubleday said that in the future collaboration between Heartland Workforce, employers, counties in the region, local governments and economic development agencies must occur. "We all have to be focused in one direction," she said. "If we are all not moving in the same direction, we can't be effective in meeting the communities we serve." During most of her career, she said, she's been working to help others find jobs, particularly the disabled. "It makes you feel good when you meet a business' needs or an individual's needs (for employment)," she said. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834