Belknap EDC stresses workforce development at annual meeting

MEREDITH — About 130 people gathered at Church Landing last night for the Belknap Economic Development Council's annual meeting of incorporators, collaborators, and special guests. Workforce development was the main theme of the evening as speakers sent guests away with the message that successful workforce development is a collaborative effort that many businesses and organizations commit to.
In reporting on the organization's 2012 activities, Belknap EDC Chair Sean Sullivan said, "The area where we had the biggest impact in 2012 was workforce development." He went on to list several projects that Belknap EDC spearheaded, including organizing Lakes Region Manufacturing Week, obtaining a $140,000 Community Development Block Grant for Lakes Region Community College to purchase equipment for its new nursing lab, and obtaining $165,000 in funding for the 200 by 2020 Initiative. Belknap EDC's detailed annual report is available at
Belknap EDC Executive Director Carmen Lorentz gave a joint presentation with Chris Kelly, owner of REMAX/Bayside and the current president of the Greater Meredith Program, and Alan Robichaud of Granite United Way on the need for more high school students to be exposed to the world of work before they graduate. Lorentz, Kelly, and Robichaud are part of the 200 by 2020 Initiative, a partnership which aims to engage at least 200 businesses region-wide in providing a full range of experiential learning opportunities to local students.
The 200 by 2020 Initiative is presently developing an online, searchable database of internships and job shadow opportunities specifically for high school students. Lorentz explained that this tool will be available in the fall of 2013 for the entire Lakes Region. Students will be able to search the opportunities available, set up an account, and submit an initial application for an internship or job shadow online. School-to-career coordinators will then be able to follow up with the student and the business to facilitate the process of securing the internship or job shadow.
Lorentz stated that they already have 30 businesses signed on to participate, in addition to business relationships that local school-to-career coordinators have already established and may choose to add to the database. Lorentz encouraged businesses to consider participating in this project. "Time and time again we hear from employers that younger people lack the soft skills needed to be successful in the workplace. This is an opportunity to change that dynamic. And what a wonderful way to show our young people that they are valuable to us — by welcoming them into our businesses and showing them what real life is like. That experience will stick with them forever."
The two recipients of Belknap EDC's Community Impact Award were selected for their contributions to local workforce development efforts.
The Greater Meredith Career Partnership Program was recognized for positively impacting hundreds of Inter-Lakes students through internships, job shadows, a speaker's bureau, employment connections, and student community service projects.
Gary Groleau of New Hampshire Ball Bearings was recognized for his many contributions to addressing the skills gap for the advanced manufacturing industry, most notably for his involvement in the Manufacturing Engineering Technology Program at the Huot Technical Center and the establishment of the Advanced Manufacturing Program at Lakes Region Community College.