Even with Georgia’s and the nation’s employment picture slowly getting brighter, there still aren’t enough jobs. But what’s at least as much a problem, certainly in the long term, is that there are high-skill jobs available and a shortage of workers qualified to do them.
According to a 2011 Georgia Department of Labor survey, there are as many as 5,000 technical jobs in the state, with employers anxious to fill them.
So said state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler in an address last week to the at the 2012 Regional Workforce Development Summit in Macon.
“That tells us we have some catching up to do,” Butler said. “… If you look back at history, after every major recession, in the recovery years you see a ‘skills gap.’ Companies that have survived have new ways of doing things, new technology.”
Obviously, if every one of those jobs were to be filled tomorrow, the result would not solve Georgia’s employment problems. The state posted an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent in April, with 423,495 Georgians officially classified as jobless (Georgia Department of Labor website, www.dol.state.ga.us).
But it would mean 5,000 people off the unemployment rolls and on the tax rolls. It would mean 5,000 more Georgians in high-skill, high-paying jobs, and better lives for thousands more Georgia families.
An inability to fill those jobs poses risks not just to the work force, but to the state’s economic health: If Georgians don’t get the skills they need, Butler said, “we will not be able to attract new industries and we will not be able to keep the ones we have.”
The commissioner said the state needs to make technical colleges its top focus in education — which brings the issue around to Columbus Technical College and the 25 other member institutions in the Technical College System of Georgia.
Georgia’s HOPE scholarship can help pay technical college tuition, and there are other grant and loan programs available as well (details are available online from Columbus Tech at columbustech.edu and from the technical college system at tcsg.edu).
Thousands of Georgians need jobs, and thousands of jobs need Georgians. Only the “skills gap” stands in the way.