During its regularly scheduled meeting on April 21, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners were updated by High Country Workforce Development Board Director Adrian Tate on what the WDB does and the state of the organization.
“We deal with the workforce investment programs that come into our area,” Tate said.
The WDB for the High Country region handles seven counties including Ashe, and provides services to employers, local youth and others.
Tait said there are tremendous changes occurring in workforce development, not only in the state and region, but nationwide as well. Approximately 35 percent of the WDB staff has been cut region-wide, because of changes in state budget cuts and unemployment.
“We have been having to do more with less and decide what services are the most effective and how we provide those,” he said.
For employers, Tait said the WDB helps employers recruit candidates to positions, screen the candidates and, if needed, coordinate training efforts for new employees. In addition, a statewide initiative called NCWorks Online was started to help people find jobs.
“NCWorks Online is a computer job matching system that allows employers to go online, list their open positions and then search for candidates that match those positions,” Tait said. “It also allows on the other side for job seekers to go online and create an online profile.”
Tait said training programs are provided, for incumbent workers and programs for “0n-the-job training.”
“The incumbent worker training program is designed to provide funding to local businesses who need to retrain their existing staff in order to keep the business and those workers competitive,” he said. “Our ‘On-The-Job Training’ program is a program which identifies workers that may have some of the skills needed by area businesses but not all of the skills.”
After discussing employer options, Tait then moved on to discuss the programs the WDB provides for area youth.
“Part of our job is looking toward the future with our pipeline of new workers,” he said. “What does it look like 10 years from now in our area?”
Approximately a year ago, the High Country WDB hosted a youth summit in the region and focused on career guidance and the level of education required. The WDB, in turn, has gotten involved with a project titled “Pathways to Prosperity,” which is used by area schools including Ashe County High School.
“About one-third of the jobs require a four-year education, another third of the jobs require a post-secondary certificate or associate’s degree and the other third require a high school education,” Tait said. “Because of that, we really need to be thinking and counseling our people to be heading into those knowledgeable pathways.”
Tait said right now, the region needs technicians and plumbers more than people in fields that require four-year degrees.
“Focusing on both two-year degree programs and the curriculum technical education programs within the high schools have become very important across the region,” he said.
Labor Market Overview
In closing, Tait reviewed the state of the labor market in the High Country region.
“This is something we do every month,” he said. “We work with (the N.C. Commerce Department of) Labor and Economic Analysis to provide the market overview and it just provides a snapshot of what is happening so you can see month to month what is going on.”
In the High Country, as of Feb. 2014, 6,621 people, or 7.6 percent of the labor force was unemployed, with 545 less people working compared to Jan. 2014. In the last 90 days, 2,663 jobs were posted online, which was 253 more job openings than posted during the same period one year ago.
The top announced projects included 105 announced jobs in Ashe County from GE Aviation, 85 annouced jobs in Wilkes County from Tyson Foods and 15 announced jobs in Alleghany County from Tri-State Components. According to data provided by Tait, Lowe’s is looking for 129 employees in the region and the Appalachian Healthcare System is looking for 45 employees.
Ashe County had 69 initial claims in Feb. 2014, compared to 237 claims in Feb. 2013. In addition, 232 individuals in the county were receiving benefits in Feb. 2014 compared to 584 in Feb. 2013.
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.