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Mind Your BlackBerry or Mind Your Manners

There’s No App for That : Business Viewpoint from Vail Carter, Centralina WDB Business Services Coordinator

Okay, I’m still waiting for AT&T to develop an APP to fix the economy. Wow, if it was only that simple, to dial the economy back to about June of 2007. The workforce landscape has changed dramatically since then as we’ve experienced globalization, downsizing, and fallout from the housing bubble bursting and four generations in the workplace.

The staff of the Centralina Workforce Development Board is constantly gathering intelligence from various sources including businesses and professionals in the communities we serve. Gathering this information and sorting it out gives us some clue as to how we might reassess our training strategies and align our services with corporate goals to best meet the needs of dislocated workers. Here are a few of those observations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted a few days ago that the overall Unemployment rate was down to 10% nationally, with jobs in manufacturing and construction continuing to be weak. The counties serviced by the Centralina Workforce Development Board mirror this observation but our unemployment rate is at 12.2% (October 2009 N.C. Employment Security Commission data).

Employers tell us they will rely on temp services to fill jobs as they cautiously add to their work force. They also tell us they will be looking for workers who have the skills, knowledge and abilities to handle multiple tasks and ideally, have soft skills to work in a team environment consisting of a multigenerational workforce. They want problem solvers who can help grow their business as the economy improves.

Businesses cite access to capital as being a stumbling block to expansion while community banks say they have capital to lend if you can meet the credit underwriting.

The model for many businesses may be permanently changed by this recession as they refocus and retrain their workforce, worry about healthcare expenses and contemplate whether contract employees might be a good fit. 2010 will be a transition year. Using the analogy of a truck shifting gears, we are currently in neutral, 2010 will shift us in low gear but it will take awhile before we can shift up to 4th gear and begin cruising. To take it a step further, some local economies will get in high gear before others. A few have worked very diligently to build diversified economies so they will be able to handle economic downturns a little better. This diversification means they have a better transmission and they will be able to shift faster and get up to speed quicker.

Economists at the local, regional and national levels generally agree that the economy will take years (3-5) to recover from this “great recession”. One economist said the recovery could be graphed as a Nike Swoosh showing the steep decline we’ve experienced over the last two years and a gradual incline as we inch our way back, while another saw it more like a Verizon V. In any case, things tumbled from the peak in 2007 and now that we are bottoming out, they agree it will be a long slow climb back to where we were in the summer of 2007.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the economy so gaining their confidence is critical to an improving economy. We’ve seen a lot of coupon clipping and folks are taking “staycations” to build savings and pay down debt. It’s too early to say if this “new frugality” will stick, but the recession has impacted the spending habits of all. Having a well paying job is the fast track to building consumer confidence and the Centralina Workforce Development Board is committed to building an exceptional workforce, preparing them for the workforce demands of tomorrow.

Which employment sectors will recover first? Here is the forecast for our area based on research conducted by Moody’s Economy.com:

1. Repair and Maintenance , Personal Care (deferred maintenance will be the driver)
2. Education and Health Services (Stimulus funding for education and elective surgeries is the key)
3. Utilities (green energy jobs and rate increases will give a boost)
4. Government (jobs will remain flat in 2010)
5. Wholesale Trade
6. Leisure and Hospitality (some growth if oil prices remain low)
7. Natural Resources and Mining (forestry products should see a slight uptick)
8. Information (data processing and storage will lead the sector)
9. Retail trade (will struggle as consumer confidence builds)
10. Transportation and Warehousing (closely linked to retail trade)
11. Manufacturing (may see a turn in 4th quarter of 2010)
12. Financial Activities (expected to recover in 2011)
13. Professional and Business Services (Could take until 2012 to see full recovery)
14. Construction (Industrial recovering first followed by commercial and residential)

No matter what happens in the future, the Centralina Workforce Development Board will be there to guide job seekers and employers. Our JobLink Career Centers and their local workforce partners are constantly developing new services and strategies to help build the best workforce for the region. Let us know how we can help. Contact Vail Carter at (704) 348-2710 or vcarter@centralina.org.

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