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Here’s what our employers see in employee pool

By Larry Peterson Savannah Morning News (via Georgia Clips) Georgia’s biggest economic issue isn’t a lack of jobs; it’s a lack of skills that match jobs that are available. That’s been said often recently, but speakers at a Tuesday ‘workforce development’ panel apparently thought it was worth repeating ‘” and acting on. John Patterson, deputy chairman of JCB and leadoff speaker at the ‘critical issues’ forum sponsored by HunterMaclean law firm, echoed that theme. So did Maggie Gill, president and CEO of Memorial Health University Medical Center and Tricia Pridemore, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development. Each cited teamwork among businesses, educational institutions and government to cope with the problem and called for more such efforts. ’What we all do connects together,’ Gill told about 75 people. Gill, who said Memorial has about 300 openings, and Pridemore said the frequent lament that few jobs are available isn’t true. ’We don’t have the connectivity between the skills that are needed and the jobs that are available,’ Gill said. Patterson said JCB, a worldwide construction equipment maker with a Pooler plant, faced a ‘nightmare’ last year when it launched a hiring effort. There were ‘lots of warm bodies but not many people with skills,’ he said. When felons and people who flunked a drug test or a manual dexterity test were weeded out of a pool of 800 applicants, only 34 were left, he said. Gill said Memorial strives to raise the skill levels of new nurses but has high turnover because advanced training makes them ‘ripe for the picking.’ Pridemore said it’s wrong to tell young people ‘they have to go to a four-year college to achieve the American dream.’ Many college graduates are jobless, and nearly half of those who work have jobs for which they are educationally overqualified, she said. Students pile up huge debt by the time they graduate and about half have hourly jobs, Pridemore said. ’With an hourly job, how are they going to pay off that debt and how long is it going to take?’ she asked. She said her office works with high school counselors around the state to steer more students to technical and vocational schools. It also tries to set up retraining for workers whose skills are no longer in high demand, she said. An audience member, Savannah-Chatham Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Lockamy, described efforts at Woodville-Tompkins Technical and Career High School. It’s hard to know what skills students will need years in advance, but local schools strive to keep instruction as up to date as possible, Lockamy said.

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