#1) The media can portray our economy in a negative light, what is our actual economic situation in Monroe County and what does our unemployment rate look like?
I really feel very strongly that we do have a better economy here in Monroe County than in the rest of New York State but we still have a long way to go to consider ourselves at full employment. The unemployment rate here is probably a little lower in the 8.2-8.6 range, it bounces around and has spiked recently but I think the most important issue here is that there is a demand from employers for well-qualified workers. When I say ‘well-qualified’, it really means workers with talent, experience and/or education that are willing to be trained. Employers have been very selective because there are many more individuals available who were never in the labor pool before; people highly skilled, well-educated and with experience. In our area we are known as a high-tech area and there are many qualified individuals so employers do have more hiring options. I know that the landscape has changed immensely; we don’t see a large number of hires, by large corporations. The days of Kodak and the supply chains feeding Kodak are no longer available. What we are seeing today are the small and medium-sized companies with smaller workforce needs. This can be seen in the job orders and openings listed through the local workforce system and RochesterWorks! The key I think in this economy is that jobseekers need to open their eyes to new opportunities and different career paths. We have many people who have been working in positions for a number of years and who have never needed a new fresh resume, never had to do an assessment of their skills, and now they find themselves competing in the marketplace. I think the job seeker really has to be open to different opportunities, be willing to learn new skills, and not shy away from education and training. The fact that the economy itself, because it has been strained, has forced many more people who thought or expected to retire to stay employed. The baby boomers are hanging on a lot longer which really hurts the new generation entering the workforce. When an employer has an option of hiring somebody more experienced with skills that more closely match their needs, this will certainly create an even more difficult situation for the entry-level individuals.
#2 Are you seeing trends in new hot career fields or opportunities in this area?
I believe the trend will continue to be centered on technology. Technology is really the key today, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, the same as IT, and technology changes are embedded in every business and industry. The skill levels of individuals in all fields related to technology can be transferred to numerous businesses and careers. Companies are working smarter, they’re much more efficient, and unfortunately because of that efficiency they need fewer workers. The hot areas and the in-demand occupations continue to be in the sectors related to medical services, advanced manufacturing and technology. We see the medical field growing and that’s a reflection of the aging population, but I also know that there is a growing need to fill careers in the growing gaps in the trades and middle skilled occupations. The most important thing is to have an open mind and a willingness to explore new opportunities that may be available. I think people need to be prepared to make some changes and probably to be realistic in their expectations. There are open job orders and new opportunities, many of them we find in advanced manufacturing, which is not the traditional manufacturing of yesterday, but is a reflection of the skill levels needed in math and communication to compete and match the efficiencies found in today’s workplace. So is there an industry, or is there a trend? I don’t think there’s a specific industry but I think from the standpoint of skill level it’s technology.
#3 If someone who is unemployed is looking for new opportunities or looking to start a new career, what steps can they take to make that transition successful?
I think the most important thing is really for a job seeker to develop a job plan. There are marketing plans and business plans, but I know that job seekers need to develop their own job search plan. What is their plan for seeking employment? They need to be very involved, they need to be patient, persistent and positive in their search and really plan their moves. They can’t sit back and not be active; they have to be pro-active today because the opportunities are not going to come to them easily. They need to do their homework and research in order to be successful. We are job developers and we basically go out there and try to identify where the opportunities are and the job seeker must do the same thing. Always be open, be positive, be very proactive and stay engaged. You can’t come into RochesterWorks! and attend a couple of workshops and think it’s now on automatic pilot, you have to be totally engaged and be proactive and persistent and that will lead to success. You also have to be flexible, just because you did something for a number of years or just because you had your mind set on having a specific career, be flexible because you may get there eventually but must also be open to other opportunities. The demands of employers are very fluid, they’re changing and I think the most important thing is that they stay on top of what’s going on. I hear from employers many times, and the employer is a very important ingredient for ultimate success. One of the main goals for RochesterWorks! is not only helping the job seekers but identifying those opportunities of our local employers so that the proper match can be achieved. We really need to expand the number of companies that we are doing business with making them aware that we do have a talented labor pool and talent bank that is available for many opportunities. I hear from employers that applicants may come in for an interview referred by us and they did not do the proper research on the firm. In today’s day and age, there is no excuse for this. Before an interview, you should know what the company does, have a background in what their products are and their services so this way you’re really a step ahead in the process. Research is essential and we have the tools to help in your preparation for this critical event. The most important thing is for someone who comes through our door to know what their next step is. After attending that first orientation, what does that customer do? Do they know where they are going? Are they going to enroll in a workshop? Are they going to investigate training opportunities? Are they going to do a re-assessment and redo their resume? I think every job seeker, anybody who comes in our door should walk away with something they didn’t have before they visited us and know what their next steps are in developing their employment plan.