Stratos, who is beginning her third week on the job, said her initial focus is to find out what projects are in place and determine how well they are working.
“The chamber already has quite a few good programs in place but I want to see what will work with those programs and with others. I want to see how we can incorporate all aspects together: business, education, students and employees,” she said.
Work force development is a top priority for the Holland Chamber and its economic development partner, the Holland Economic Development Corporation (HEDCOR) and Lakeshore Link, the chamber’s business/education partnership program.
Stratos will coordinate business/education partnerships, promote work force training programs and facilitate the Macatawa Manufacturer’s Council. She also will work with area businesses to focus on education and training events. Specifically, the task will include getting businesses involved in K-12 grade levels.
“We need to get the area businesses involved with school children so the kids have an opportunity to see what different jobs are out there and what they are all about,” said Chris Byrnes, president of the chamber and HEDCOR. “They (businesses) can participate in many ways, whether it be through job shadowing, sending a speaker to the school or just sending information about the company and jobs that are there.”
This is exactly what Stratos hopes to turn her attention to in her first few months of operation. “I want to do a lot of info gathering. We need to look at students visiting businesses, businesses visiting schools, school officials visiting businesses and overlapping everyone so there is a compassion and understanding for what the other knows and can share,” Stratos noted. “We need to really develop the work force and bring it into all aspects of the company.”
Developing the work force and the economy are two things with which Stratos is very familiar. Born and raised in the Holland area, but eventually moving away, she said the one thread in her work has always been in work force and economic development. “For the last 11 years, in various positions, this is a subject I have always worked with,” she said.
Stratos said the Lakeshore Link, Macatawa Manufacturer’s Council and the M-TEC Center all will play a role in economic development.
“These programs are all tools I hope to utilize in the community. I would like to go out with my tool belt and be able to show businesses what is available so they can see what works and what tools they should be using,” she said.
She herself has been a tool in developing the ever-growing work force of Holland. Stratos said three things pulled her toward the specialist’s position.
“The work force development component of the chamber was good because it is a new position and it gives me a chance to develop it in a way that I think will work for the community,” Stratos said. “Secondly, this area is very supportive of business development and that will be nice in working in this position. Finally, this is where my family is, so it is like coming back home.”
With the addition of Stratos, Byrnes said, “it is our goal to assist area businesses with creating a qualified, high-quality work force. The work force is the critical issue in business expansion (along with) choice of location. I believe with Joyce we can achieve these issues.”