Future Careers Expo Helps Students Explore Career Options

Middle and high school students from the region and their parents explored career options at the 3rd Future Careers Expo held Thursday, Nov. 9 at Bloomsburg University. Nearly 40 employers and education providers were on hand to talk to young people about opportunities that exist in our area. The event was held in the evening at the Kehr Union so that parents could be part of the conversation.

The event is a partnership between the Bloomsburg University STEM Magnet program and the Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber, and was supported by the Arconic Foundation and Williams. The Foundation works to support area employers through workforce development initiatives. In addition to this Expo, programs such as School Counts, Classroom on Main Street, and The Leader in Me develop employability skills in young people and provide exposure to a wide variety of career options.

Among the participating employer and education providers were Chamber members Arconic/Kawneer Company, Bloomsburg University, Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School, First Columbia Bank, First Keystone Community Bank, Geisinger, Maria Joseph Continuing Care Community, McTish, Kunkel & Associates, PA CareerLink Columbia/Montour Counties, Pennsylvania College of Technology, PPL Electric Utilities, SEKISUI SPI, Susquehanna Nuclear/Talen Energy and Williams

ChamberChoice to Offer Pair of Webinars on Benefits-Related Issues in November and December

ChamberChoice will offer a pair of webinars about two separate topics related to workplace benefits administration in November and December. Both webinars are available free-of-charge to all Chamber members as a benefit of membership through the Chamber’s affinity programs through ChamberChoice

The schedule and topics of the webinars are listed below. Please visit the JRG Advisors website for more information or to register for one or both.

Thursday, Nov. 9, 10 a.m. – Add Value with Life and Disability Insurance

Thursday, Dec. 14, 10 a.m. – Avoid the Pitfalls of Plan Administration

Formula For Success: How Benefits Brokers Put People First

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

What gets you up every morning? OK, besides the dreaded buzz of the alarm clock or smell of fresh brewed coffee. Is it simply to “wake up and repeat,” like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day? Or, perhaps you want to check one more thing off your to-do list?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency and routine when it comes to our daily tasks, says Jessica Galardini, president and COO at JRG Advisors. We go through the motions day-to-day and forget about the real purpose behind what we do.

“For benefits brokers, that purpose, drive and passion should be simple — helping people,” Galardini says. “By putting the focus on people and relationships instead of the sale, a benefits broker can make meaningful connections that result in loyal clients, and of course, referrals. Insurance professionals in today’s world of health care benefits need to develop a unique perspective to be successful.”

Smart Business spoke with Galardini about the traits that employers should look for in the most successful benefits brokers.

How has employee benefits changed?
Almost any benefits broker would agree that operating in the health care benefits industry over the past 10 years has been difficult. Building a successful business and client base while responding to the numerous, ever-changing outcomes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created many challenges for reducing uncertainties and the painful impact to employers and employees.

While it’s human nature to resist change, a benefits broker should think outside of the box and look for unique, innovative ways to do his or her job, which is to solve problems. It’s an opportunity to minimize the angst people feel with the ACA — to explain the changes, minimize the concern and worry, and sort through polarizing politics.

People want good health care, provider access and convenience at a better price. This is a challenging, but not impossible, task and should be what motivates any benefits broker. Health care, now more than ever, is an important area for brokers to help their clients and showcase their expertise.

How do successful benefits brokers approach this uncertain environment?
The uncertainty around the law seems to build every day, with the ACA’s future wavering on Senate votes. Even with the uncertainty, benefits brokers can’t forget the people caught in the crossfire of the ACA and politics. With rising costs, many employers are feeling stuck with what they have, or that the only cost containment strategy is to push more cost toward their workforce. A good approach starts with C-level dialogue to identify, consider and understand requirements within coverage, network, workforce and budget.

There are products and services to achieve objectives, once they’re clearly identified and considered on a scale of importance to overall strategy. Some solutions include specific data analytics to identify emerging health risk factors so a care strategy can be developed, confidentially and individually within the workforce. Technology options also can provide a deeper-dive population comparison, even for employers without historical claims data. Online transparency tools give employees real-time information by zip code, service type and facility so they can make smart choices for services like blood work and MRIs, which can range from affordable to astronomical in cost with no difference in quality outcomes.

These solutions empower employers through dialogue, information and motivating employees with the ‘carrot’ rather than the ‘stick’ — moving the needle toward knowledge-based decision-making,
defined affordability and people satisfaction.

What else would you like to share?
There is a lot of information out there when it comes to health insurance. Benefits brokers should look for unique ways to continuously educate their clients and connect with them on a more interactive level, such as through educational webinars and seminars. This can be a proactive approach to solving the clients’ problems before they arise and addressing real issues.

Strong benefits brokers consider the people they’re helping in order to bring fresh and creative problem-solving ideas to the table. By keeping people in mind and maintaining a unique perspective, they’re inspired and employers are happy — a winning formula for success.

PA Department of Labor & Industry to Hold Free Safety Webinars in November

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Health & Safety Division will offer a series of free webinars on workplace safety throughout the month of November.  Titled PATHS (PA Training for Health and Safety), these webinars will cover subjects such as emergency action plans, behavior-based safety, safe driving in inclement weather, hazardous waste management, dealing with angry people, and much more. Each webinar lasts approximately one hour depending on course material and viewer participation. 

For more information, to register, and for a complete listing of each webinar, visit the PATHS training calendar

Construction of Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Gets Underway

Mike Atchie of Williams (standing) speaks with local officials about construction getting underway on the pipeline project earlier this month.

Construction of a natural gas transmission pipeline through Columbia County is starting in October. The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project is divided into seven sections, and is expected to be completed in approximately one year. On Thursday, Oct. 5, representatives of Williams met with local officials to discuss construction logistics including soil conservation, road crossings, inspections, security, and land restoration. There will be approximately 45-50 inspectors and private security for each section of the project.

The project is expected to support over 1,000 jobs in Columbia County and have a value-added impact here of $85.5 million as a result of contractors utilizing local goods and services. The Chamber has already been receiving calls regarding campgrounds and lodging. To help workers find what they need in the area, Williams has developed the WillShop Local app, which is now available on the Google Play and Apple stores. There is no cost for businesses to be included in the app, and for those businesses that haven’t yet registered to be listed on the app, the Chamber is sending its membership list to be incorporated.

WILLShop Local app screenshot

Additional information about the project is available at the project’s website.