Commentary: A shot in the arm for skilled training

Joe Conaway

One of the goals that we at SEDAC, Sussex Economic Development Action Committee, have emphasized over the years has been job opportunities for those who graduate from our high schools.

We see these jobs as a real opportunity to keep our young people here while insisting that these opportunities be more than minimum wage jobs. As we have said in the past, not every young person needs or should go to college but they need to have skills that will enable them to obtain, keep and grow with jobs that are available. Toward that end, the Delaware Workforce Development Board is preparing a new program that will provide the necessary funds to allow our young people to develop the skills necessary to earn those jobs.

Led by the efforts of Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, legislation will be introduced this year that will provide up to $9,000 to an individual to afford them the opportunity to receive the additional skilled training necessary to obtain a job in Sussex County after high school. Successful graduates of these training programs will be able to move into the workforce with the training necessary to provide a skilled labor pool so necessary today in Sussex County.

Training grants will enable a high school graduate to gain skills at a variety of training facilities, including but not limited to Delaware Tech. SEDAC absolutely supports this program and urges all of our state legislators to support this endeavor. It would be funded with a $1 million grant and, with Delaware’s financial position in such great shape, the amount of the grant is just a drop in the bucket in the overall financial environment in Delaware. Once the program is evaluated and deemed successful, funds should be increased.

We offer one suggestion as to how we see the opportunities presented by this program can be improved. Right now, it’s primary focus is on high school graduates. We submit it should also include 11th- and 12th-graders. This is not a new idea. We already allow and schedule high schoolers in Advance Placement College courses while they are still in high school. If it’s good enough for college-bound students, why not those in the trades? The grant funds could be used to defray the cost for both the students and the schools. We see it as a win-win for everybody but most importantly for all the people of Sussex County. Let’s keep an eye on how this program progresses but congratulations to the Board and Sen. Pettyjohn for their efforts to attack this problem.

On another subject, SEDAC has run the Sussex County Open for Business Fair for eight years. This program is held at 9 a.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the Del Tech Student Services Center. This feww forum continues to serve as a one-stop shop offering information on funding, business consulting and training; it serves both startups and established businesses seeking to expand. No appointment is necessary. One just needs to show up and avail themselves of the services from more than 15 professionals from county and state agencies, colleges, business advocacy and resource organizations.

Did I mention that it’s FREE? SEDAC members Scott Thomas, Southern Delaware Tourism director, and David Root, director of the Small Business Development Center run this program. In 2018, 33 individuals took part in the forum but attendance seems to be dropping off. If you are interested in starting your own business or expanding your present business, this is a great place to begin. And did I mention it’s FREE?

For further information on SEDAC or becoming a member, check out our web site at

EDITOR’S NOTE: Joe Conaway IS chairman of SEDAC.

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