Employers need more employees and workers need jobs, but with the ever-changing labor market, things just aren't that simple.

According to the Greater Cincinnati Workforce Network, it is the gap between the needs of employers and the skills of potential employees "” dubbed the "dual-workforce challenge" "” that is the core problem.

The Network is a regional partnership of organizations that helps employers find and retain skilled employees, and helps low-income residents further their education and training to qualify for jobs.

"We're trying to make those needs match," says Ross Meyer, executive director of the Workforce Network. "Despite having close to 100,000 people unemployed right now, employers can't find the skills they need in employees because their skills are mismatched." And unfortunately, for the 1 in 6 adults in Cincinnati who lack a high school diploma or GED, this tends to mean unemployment.

Jobs of the Future Changing

"The labor market is changing quickly and the jobs of the future are changing," says Meyer. "Jobs require more technical skills, work readiness skills, availability, time management."

According to the Workforce Network, nearly half of the region's adults lack education beyond high school, making it very difficult for them to find jobs.

In 2010, the Workforce Network completed an employer survey to better understand the current and future workforce expectations and needs in the Tristate. One portion of the survey asked employers to measure their satisfaction with the abilities and skills of recently hired employees. The study showed that employers were most satisfied with employees who were academically competent in reading and basic computer skills, but who also had integrity and a willingness to learn.

Growing Skills

The Workforce Network makes it its mission to grow these types of skills in the area's workforce by improving and aligning the policies, strategies and resources of the region's workforce development system.

For a person looking to get into healthcare, for example, this might mean undergoing certification training programs that will eventually help him find an entry-level job.

"We work with Great Oaks a lot," Meyer says. "First, they will do an assessment [of the individual] to see if they are a good fit for the job. Then there is certification training for entry-level jobs such as a nurse's aide or health unit coordinator"¢so employees can start their first job in the industry while they continue their education."

Great Oaks, with four regional campuses, is one of the largest career and technical education districts in the United States. It provides career, workforce and economic development services to individuals and business, industry, labor and community organizations in southwest Ohio. For adults who want to train for a new career, Great Oaks offers more than a dozen programs including medical office training, welding, plumbing or diesel mechanics.

Most can be completed in a few months.

HealthCare, Manufacturing Up

"We continue to see healthcare as a growing field and a lot of manufacturing jobs, such as welding," Meyer says. "Manufacturing has a bad image, but the demand on manufacturers is much higher than it was before. These are good jobs that pay well, but they require some sort of advanced training or skills."

According to the Workforce Network employer survey, close to 17 percent of the respondents worked in the manufacturing industry, while approximately 16 percent of the respondents worked in healthcare, making those the top two industries represented.

Meanwhile, the JobsOhio Network reported that the most popular online job ads in the Cincinnati area from Sept. 14 to Oct. 13, 2011, were for office administrative occupations (such as customer service representatives and executive secretaries), sales and related occupations (such as retail salespersons or first-line supervisors), and computer and mathematical occupations (such as computer systems analysts and web developers).

In terms of education requirements, approximately 46 percent of these ads required that applicants have a four-year college degree, while 34 percent required only experience. Additionally, nearly 16 percent of the ads were open to individuals with less than a four-year degree, but who had more than a high school education, and only about 5 percent required more than a four-year degree.

In the Workforce Network employer survey, however, 47 percent of entry-level positions required some post-secondary education, 48 percent required a high school diploma or GED, and only 5 percent did not have any education requirement.

"If people are willing to go back to school, that's the first step," says Meyer. "The key is to identify what their skills are and to get the right kind of education."

Selection criteria


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