For many, education, job growth go hand in handPublished 10:27am Thursday, December 10, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
President Barack Obama tackled the nations continuing unemployment crisis, announcing on Tuesday new initiatives he hopes will spur job growth across the country.
But as more and more people battle unemployment and face the possibility that their benefits will expire before they find work, the president’s efforts may not completely relieve the worry facing so many unemployed Americans, including those right here in Niles.
One of the key factors in job creation, is not only tax incentives to small businesses or fueling infrastructure or clean energy industry jobs, but is an educated, skilled workforce.
“We really need to bolster our skill set,” Candice Elders, of Michigan Works Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties, said Wednesday.
The organization, which works to help the unemployed through various services and training programs and provides continuous research on the tri-county area job climate, sees close to 30,000 people a year.
“It’s tough because we know there are a lot of laborers who are unemployed right now,” Elders said.
The president’s plan to increase job growth consists of focusing on small businesses, providing tax incentives and elimination of certain fees in order to help those businesses hire employees.
America’s roadways and infrastructure projects are also part of the president’s plan, as he hopes open the door to more transit projects, thereby hiring more laborers.
Finally, Obama reiterated the importance of clean energy and energy efficiency incentives and investments to create new jobs in that industry.
Elders said as many wait and see if these efforts make their way off the president’s agenda and through Washington, ultimately bringing jobs back to Main Street, those unemployed should focus on diversifying their own skill sets so they are as well-prepared and trained as possible for any opportunities that might be available in the near future.
“We’re trying to look really long term about these,” she said.
Even when the economy improves and the number of jobs available begin to grow, “we still have a skill shortage,” she said.
When it comes to infrastructure, some question what happens when a roadway project ends. Elders said apprenticeship programs can help give by providing workers with the skills and networking abilities to continue working on multiple projects.
“That vocational and post secondary education is key,” she said.
Elders said there are “1,300 workers on record that have been laid off from jobs in our tri-county area. That’s a lot of people.”
For many industries that have shed those jobs, work is routine and many employees have done the same job day in and day out year after year.
“They just need to go and get a little more training and we can help with that,” Elders said.
Percentage of unemployed in the tri-county area by industry as of July 2009:
Advanced Manufacturing 34.2 percent
Energy/Skilled Trades 17.3
Health care 5.6
Total Number of Employers in Tri-County: 5,529
Source: Michigan Works