The Workforce Investment Board is focusing its attention on workforce issues facing the region.
The board recently started a dialog with county manufacturing representatives, economic development leaders and educators to discuss how to build a more qualified workforce.
Richard Deitz, Federal Reserve Bank of New York regional analyst, was the featured speaker during the meeting. Deitz gave a statistical presentation addressing business and workforce trends forecasted for the future. Deitz talked about how not only is unemployment a problem nationally and locally, but also the lengthy of time people have been without a job is also troubling.
Richard Deitz, Federal Reserve Bank of New York regional analysis, speaks during a Workforce Investment Board meeting about the county’s workforce.
P-J photo by Dennis Phillips
''We've had very little job growth,'' Deitz said as one of the reasons people have been unemployed longer during the current recession compared to past ones.
One piece of good news Deitz delivered to about 50 people in attendance is that the recession hasn't hit the Upstate region as bad as it has hit the entire country. He said one reason the region has fared better than the overall country is because there was no housing boom bust in the Upstate.
Deitz gave statistical information showing that unemployment in the county is coming down, but jobs are still being lost. He said there has been a significant drop in the workforce in the county.
After Deitz presentation, the floor was opened to questions. Several people attending the presentation said the biggest problem facing manufacturers is the inability to find a qualified workforce. From potential workers failing test to determine if they read or do math at an eight-grade level to employees failing drug test to people lacking motivation to go to work if they are already collecting unemployment, these were several of the reasons discussed about why there is a lack of a quality county workforce.
Bill Daly, county Industrial Development Agency director, said the general comment that is heard is that there are no jobs in the county. He said this is untrue. Daly said there are quality manufacturing jobs available, just not enough people skilled enough to fill the positions.
Susan McNamara, WIB executive director, discussed the findings from the Summer Youth Work Experience Program that further suggest the need to focus on basic skills to build work force readiness. She reported that only 53 percent of candidates for entry level manufacturing jobs pass the eighth grade math/reading tests, even those with high school diplomas. She said this number highlights the basic skill crisis in the community.
The Workforce Investment Board is a local group appointed by the county executive to transform the fragmented assortment of employment and training programs into a comprehensive, aligned and universal system. The goal is to reposition federal job training as a business-led, market-driven system to improve workforce quality.