Gov. Markell speaks to economic commission

governor-group

MILFORD — The Economic Development Commission, a branch of the Greater Milford Chamber of Commerce, entertained a new guest for its monthly meeting in October.

Governor Jack Markell met the group of local business owners, consumers and city officials at Abbot’s Grill Tuesday, Oct. 18 to discuss economics as it relates to both the city of Milford and the state of Delaware alike.

The presentation, titled Delaware Economy, outlined how job growth in Delaware has risen since he took office in 2009 while unemployment rates declined.

He added that “job growth [in Delaware] significantly outpaces other states in the region and the United States, also.”

To that end, state officials have also been able to encourage wage growth, he continued.

“Credit needs to go where the credit belongs, which are the entrepreneurs,” Gov. Markell said. “But there is a role the government can play by creating a kind of environment employers want to say, ‘I want to hire here.’”

Problems arise, according to the Governor, when there are either too few people to hire or an increase in technology means less people need to be hired.

“We need to invest in skills,” he said of the dilemma. “There’s probably never been a worse time to not be trained.”

governor-group2To address this and similar problems, Gov. Markell launched Pathways to Prosperity alongside Delaware’s Department of Education in August of this year.

The program involves 1,600 hours of classes during high school. Students successfully completing these programs graduate with a high school diploma, college credits and certification in their field of study, allowing them to access the workforce sooner than others.

Milford High School now boasts several of the available programs, such as applied health and computer programming, according to Director of Secondary Education Dr. Jason Peel.

Milford School District’s Superintendent Kevin Dickerson previously said of the program, “Our district is fortunate to have great support within our community and area employers who are vital for us in expanding career pathway opportunities for students in high-demand occupations.

“We appreciate the Governor’s leadership and the collaborative efforts behind Delaware Pathways, which has helped our district to fulfill one of our most essential responsibilities–to prepare all students to be college and career ready upon graduation.”

Gov. Markell told the group Tuesday afternoon that the program should also help reduce high school dropout rates for the state.

“Many students that dropout of high school, they don’t drop out because they’re not intelligent… they feel that what they’re being taught won’t be used,” he said.

Other challenges

Milford plays other roles in furthering some of his platforms, he continued telling the group, such as offering a diverse workforce and products that can be found worldwide.

Speaking directly to Purdue’s Milford branch manager Elgardo Torres Ortiz, Gov. Markell said, “When you move from poverty to middle class, your diet changes. You move from grain to protein. I want that protein to be chicken from Delaware. We are connected to the world and we have got to recognize that.”

The Milford School District also recently began its first Spanish Immersion program with a cohort of Kindergarteners at Morris Elementary School in Lincoln to further that worldwide connection, he said with pride.

One of the top things employers say to him, he added, was that the quality of the workforce is directly connected to the quality of the schools.

“The truth of the matter is that we rarely looked at the Department of Labor statistics,” Dr. Peel said in response. “We took the SATs and all of that, but it never really connected to anything. Now I think our challenge is how can we move a little faster.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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