Craig Nathan said right now it’s a “buyer’s market” for employers looking to hire the unemployed. And while those words boost promise for many displaced workers, Nathan said it can also hinder those looking for work settling in what he dubs, “underemployment.”
“For many employers that used to require someone with a high school degree, they now can get someone with a college degree because those numbers are out there in those looking for work,” said Nathan, operations manager for Rural Minnesota CEP at the Minnesota Workforce Center in Brainerd. He said the unemployment rate for the area is slowly on the decline.
As the Brainerd lakes area, like many areas across the state, continues to try work itself out of the increasing jobless rates, Nathan said the Workforce Center’s relationship with Central Lakes College (CLC) is helping to increase the skill level of those looking for work and help close the skills gap that many people in that “bottom level” of unemployment can benefit from.
“We have a great and very close relationship with CLC,” said Nathan, who himself was laid off 12 years ago and began looking outside of his comfort zone for an occupation that was in high demand — something he recommends to all job seekers to consider. “A great portion of our (state) funding goes toward re-training on institution focused skills...that can be earned (with a degree) in two years or less.
“Two years of education and you can come out with a pretty good skill setup and that much better of chance to be looked at and considered for the job.”
Nathan said many high-demand jobs in the county include positions that require further education, like healthcare, which currently sits atop the area’s highest in-demand positions.
“The reason healthcare has been a consistent in-demand job for the past five to seven years, is due in large part of the demographics in our area combined with the fact that it’s a retirement destination,” said Nathan. “We also have plenty of lower level jobs available; for instance, in Baxter there is a retail growth. But what comes with that is a lower wage and often times fewer hours with no benefits which then creates another problem, forcing adults to work one to three part-time jobs to make up for what they used to have.”
Another threat posed that Nathan said the Workforce Center in conjunction with CLC are addressing is advancing laid off workers in technology.
Nathan said the majority of workers that were laid off during the recession were skilled in their particular area, and lack some of the computer and technology skills needed in today’s workplace.
“It’s especially hard to teach an old dog new tricks,” said Nathan.
And educational resources extend beyond the walls at CLC, with the Workforce Center offering resume classes, one-on-one help and a computer station to apply for jobs.
“What we do is provide services that will help develop those entering the workforce, ages 14 through senior citizens,” said Nathan. “We help people develop resumes, do a job search and retrain for skills that are longer applicable in the workforce.
“We want to better prepare the residents in our area and across the state to join the workforce and get back on their feet and working again. It’s a win-win for everyone.”