Job market requires training or finding necessary skilled workers

Job market requires training or finding necessary skilled workers

RICHMOND, Ind. — Even as Wayne County’s unemployment rate grows, jobs are available.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as matching an unemployed person with a job. Some available jobs require special skills the person does not possess. Some available jobs pay low wages that won’t support the person’s family. Some unemployed residents are now hesitant, unprepared or unable to join the workforce.

Still, some local companies continue creating additional jobs even as they struggle to fill openings.

Two concepts attempt to rectify the job market’s disconnect: training local residents with in-demand skills and attracting desired workers to relocate into Wayne County.

Wayne County’s unemployment rate is higher than the state’s

July’s Indiana Department of Workforce Development report shows Wayne County’s unemployment rate climbed for the third consecutive month, reaching 3.6%. That ranks 27th among the state’s 92 counties, just higher than the state’s overall 3.5% rate.

Wayne County’s July rate is slightly higher than its 3.3% June unemployment rate. It continues a 12-month pattern that began with 4.0% unemployment during August 2021 that dropped to 1.6% in December 2021 and has now steadily risen again.

COVID-19’s onset caused 4,078 members of Wayne County’s workforce to be unemployed during April 2020 for a 14.0% unemployment rate. The rate consistently dropped from that point for a year, reaching 3.9% during April 2021.

In July, the DWD estimates Wayne County’s workforce at 30,173, with 1,072 of those unemployed. That workforce number is just 303 people fewer than February 2020, the final pre-pandemic month, but it’s 1,708 people fewer than the 30-month high of 31,881 from May 2021.

Forward Wayne County, a part of the Wayne County Foundation that serves as a catalyst for local change, reports that the county’s workforce participation rate is 55.66%, which trails the national average by 7 percentage points. to hoosierdata.in.gov, 49.0% of Wayne County residents, or about 32,500, are between the ages of 25 and 64, the age range providing the majority of the workforce.

Employability is one area Forward Wayne County addresses in its work with other county organizations. Its goals include increasing the percentage of residents working, the average per capita income and the household median income. Its work attempts to help strengthen the current and future workforce and attract talented workers by improving quality of place.

Struggling: 15% of Wayne County households in poverty

Wayne County continues to rank among Indiana’s worst counties for households living in poverty, per capital income and household median income. Forward Wayne County’s 2022 County Indicator Report indicates 15.1% of the county’s households live in poverty, a figure that’s 3.5 percentage points higher than the state. In addition, 23.0% of county households are ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households, which means they earn more than the poverty level but less than the cost for living.

That means that nearly four of 10 Wayne County households live in poverty or can’t make ends meet.

Wayne County’s $45,499 per capita income falls 9.0% behind the state average ($56,153) and 23.5% behind the national average ($59,510), the report said. A $47,756 median household income in Wayne County falls 18.0% behind Indiana’s average ($58,235) and 26.5% behind the United States average ($64.994).

Wayne County is well-positioned to provide increased training

Forward Wayne County in 2019 formed an Employability Coalition with local high schools, colleges, employers, the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County and others to enhance training and connect residents to existing opportunities. It tries to increase internships and upskill workers, and it participates in the East Central Indiana Talent Collaborative as part of the 21st Century Talent Region.

The county is well-situated for training opportunities with Ivy Tech Community College Richmond, Indiana University East, Purdue Polytechnic Richmond and Earlham College. Ivy Tech features its Next Level Jobs program, and Earlham provides tuition breaks for local students and accepts Ivy Tech credit transfers.

The Next Level Jobs program allows students an opportunity to earn a free credential thanks to a Workforce Ready Grant. Programs, in addition to Ivy Tech’s regular programs, include 20 certificates in marketable advanced manufacturing areas, nine certificates in building and construction, 14 certificates in health sciences, 25 certificates in information technology and business transportation services and nine certificates in and logistics.

Alternative education paths

In Wayne County, only 29.4% of residents have either an associate’s degree (9.6%), a bachelor’s degree (12.0%) or a graduate degree (7.8%).

Other career training opportunities also exist from employers. For example, Dot Transportation recently received an $86,000 Economic Development Income Tax grant from Wayne County and the EDC to offset training costs for 43 new truck drivers that will be hired. Dot pays $750 a week for a CDL training class and 10-week, in-truck training program.

Richmond Fire Department not only offers high school students career center courses that trains them to be firefighters and EMTs, but it also now will train members after they’re hired. The academy training course can be completed at the department’s Richmond training ground, where it recently graduated its first class.

RFD and other public safety organizations, such as Richmond Police Department and the Wayne County Emergency Communications Center, recently participated in a job fair at the training grounds in an attempt to attract applicants. Public safety groups have found hiring difficult.

They’re not alone in reaching out via job fairs. For example, Hill’s Pet Nutrition recently conducted a job fair at its Union Pike location. It offers jobs with a $19.75 starting wage. Hill’s was granted late in 2021 a tax abatement on new production equipment as it underwent an expansion project that planned to add 64 new jobs.

Seeking work/life balance

If enough local workers aren’t found, initiatives improving local housing options and quality of place hope to attract workers to Wayne County. Younger workers are now more likely to consider work/life balance, flexible work hours and locations and company values ​​when deciding where to work. The COVID pandemic and growing technology have also increased the ability for remote workers to work from anywhere.

The city of Richmond, Wayne County government and the EDC are partnering in a Make My Move campaign to incentivize 20 remote workers to relocate here. The EDC has within the past two years begun focusing on quality of place as well as on attracting new businesses and encouraging local business expansions.

Initiatives providing additional recreation and housing options aiming to attract workers and hopefully slow the county’s population loss. Projects underway or under consideration include multi-use trails, Whitewater Gorge Park activation and a 150-apartment development at the former Elder-Beerman site.

Regardless of how it’s achieved, Wayne County’s future requires the right workers available to fill open jobs.

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