Just before the holidays, Governor Deal and the Georgia Department of Economic Development released a report presenting the information gleaned from the department’s High Demand Career Initiative, an effort begun last April to identify the careers and skills the state’s employers expect to need over the next ten years. The study’s results will be used by the department, the University System and the states technical colleges to help refine classroom programs and initiatives.
The report explains how the High Demand Career Initiative will benefit both workers and employers:
The innovative public-private dialogue fostered through HDCI will help Georgia’s leaders ensure that education and workforce development efforts are geared toward the current and future workforce needs of Georgia businesses. By streamlining the efforts of the participating state partners, businesses will be provided with direct access to resources that meet their workforce needs. Additionally, the findings will serve as a key tool for policy makers to guide future workforce policy actions. This coordination will serve as an important competitive advantage helping Georgia maintain its present status as the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business.
The department held listening sessions in 13 locations throughout Georgia, and heard from some 80 companies in the fields of agriculture and food, aerospace, automotive manufacturing, defense, film, television and interactive entertainment, healthcare and life sciences, information technology, logistics and transportation, and manufacturing.
The report identifies a number of trends, needs and best practices among Georgia’s companies that are important to the state’s workforce and economic development. An aging workforce, especially in mechanical positions indicates a growing need for skilled workers in areas such as manufacturing. Companies are placing a lot of emphasis on S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills and training. These skills need to be introduced to students at a younger age, and S.T.E.M. training needs to include women and minorities in order to help fill a shortage of workers in these fields.
In addition to technical training, there is a need for workers having basic educational and soft skills. People entering the workforce or preparing to move up need to know not only basic reading, writing and math, but how to effectively communicate, solve problems, work as a team with others, and to think critically. Meanwhile, companies are taking advantage of partnerships with all levels of educators, from school boards to the University System to help train their workforces. This includes programs like Georgia Quickstart, Internships and on the job training.
Yet, some would say Georgia already has people with needed skills, it’s just that employers aren’t considering them, whether it’s because of their age, or because of salary considerations. According to the AJC,
Roslyn Chastain, a veteran information technology specialist, said the employers interviewed for the report, as well as politicians lauding it, were out of touch. The 59-year-old has worked as a contractor after being laid off from her permanent job a few years ago, barely stringing together enough assignments to pay her bills.
“Employers are trying to find the cheapest person they can get, and they don’t value people’s work or experience,” she said. “The corporate world has become an extension of the political world — they are both ignorant of what is out there.”
Another worker interviewed for the story, Paul Allen, said despite his extensive engineering experience, he had been unable to land a new job after being laid off two years ago. He claims that employers are seeking younger workers, and are bypassing older ones with more experience.
The HDCI was an attempt to get feedback from Georgia business about the skills and training their current and future employees will need. That information, in turn, will be used to help the state’s economic development department, technical schools and colleges offer training programs and degrees that match those stated needs. For that reason, it’s quite possible that what the employers told those running the HDCI and what the long time workers are saying are both true.
What can be said is that by having the Economic Development Department facilitating the sharing of information between businesses and the schools and colleges that will educate their future workers, Georgia’s businesses and workers will benefit.