Chamber says workforce development is key. Several business leaders say they can’t find people to fill jobs.
♦ Several business leaders say they can’t find people to fill jobs.
The Rome Floyd Chamber is partnering with other community groups to increase the workforce pool available to local industries.
Chamber President Jeanne Krueger told participants in a special labor and workforce meeting Tuesday that workforce sustainability “is a top of mind issue” for business leaders across the community.
“As we want to grow our workforce, it starts also with growing our population,” Krueger said. “In order to do that, we’re going to look outside our county lines in a marketing plan that we’re working on with other groups.”
The chamber is also revamping its workforce committee to address the needs of local business and industry.
The staffing situation in Rome is probably the most challenging he’s seen in more than two decades, said Layton Roberts, CEO of Etowah Employment. Regardless of the unemployment rate, about half of those who are unemployed are not interested in working, he said.
“If they are interested in working then they might last a week or two weeks, so the commitment is absolutely not there,” Roberts said. “If you have 3% unemployment and you take that half away, you’re down to 1.5% unemployment.”
A significant number of people who could be working are taking advantage of the current situation, he said, to “ride the unemployment wave a little bit too long.”
The current chair of the Greater Rome Existing Industries Association, John Cothran of Brugg Lifting North America, agreed. His company has reached out to staffing agencies to fill a variety of vacancies but he said he’s just not getting many responses from job seekers.
Another avenue to rectify the situation is recruiting that workforce earlier.
Chamber Board Chair Cassandra Wheeler said she felt like the community would benefit from trying to work with children as early as the eighth grade, to help them understand the types of jobs that are available in the community.
“I’m not sure if we’re talking to students prior to entering high school, just to plant the seed and get it on their mind,” Wheeler said.
In that vein, local school systems are looking to prepare their students earlier and earlier.
Shanna Patrick with Rome City Schools and Wright Edge with Floyd County Schools said their systems are dipping down to middle school to make them aware of opportunities and careers available in the community.
“We do offer six of our pathways in the middle schools,” Patrick said.
The county system introduces students to the curriculum at the college and career academy as early as the fourth grade, Edge said.
In the Douglas County school system there is a youth leadership for manufacturing program, said Stephanie Scearce, vice president for economic development at Georgia Northwestern Technical College.
“It’s very detailed ... essentially they — in sixth, seventh and eighth grade — identify students to do manufacturing tours to expose them to industry,” she said. “When they get into high school, they’re working with counselors of work-based learning, coordinators to identify students with no plans for post-secondary education, to expose them to workforce skills needed by local industry.”