The Critical Role of Workforce Training in the Labor Market Recovery

By: Kevin Gehrke, Business Development Manager, Applied Science

As we slowly exit the COVID-19 pandemic, markets will begin to open bringing rise to the need for labor, more importantly, skilled labor. In preparation, we, as a community, need to understand how the labor market has changed and if the change will remain permanent. Many industries have seen a dramatic reduction in demand and will continue to do so while others are thriving. Meanwhile, some have been developed entirely due to the pandemic circumstances. Part of the understanding needs to include how various income and education levels have been affected. Having a good grasp on these factors will help to mold the training required to help all sectors of the community thrive and grow into the future.

The hardest-hit industries for the Big Bend area over the last year have been food service and hospitality, travel/transportation, personal services, retail, and food and clothing manufacturing.  This was a direct result of the mandates established to help curb the spread of the virus.  As we all know, many small businesses, restaurants, and bars had to permanently close their doors as a result of the loss of revenue.  The labor force for these industries was suddenly left unemployed.  Experts in the field of economic recovery expect these staffing positions to remain low as the public has adjusted their lifestyle (online shopping, cooking at home, etc.) making them less necessary.  On the other end of the spectrum, the least affected are the “essential” jobs; medical service, medical device manufacturing, telecommunications, and advanced manufacturing. Mainly, those working in fields in which they had to work in response to the virus (medical) and those who could continue to work virtually. So, how can this affect society’s rebound from this once-in-a-century event? 

The challenge ahead of us is to determine how those most affected and seeking work can prepare themselves to move into these new types of roles greatly in need. This is where workforce training is so critical. There are many avenues to acquire the necessary training. Between the local educational institutions, online classes, and employer programs, those looking for new opportunities to grow can find help. A good place to start is CareerSource Capital Region or the career center office at one of the local educational institutions, like Tallahassee Community College and Lively Technical College. They can identify a best fit path and occupation and, possibly, provide the required classes.

I would also challenge those businesses looking for help to take a chance on someone who may not check all the boxes, but has the drive and desire to quickly learn and grow into the position to consider apprenticeships. Through this program, employers can recruit and develop a highly skilled workforce that helps grow their business, meet demand, and boost talent retention. Just as the community had to work together to make it through this pandemic, it will take the community to return to growth and prosperity.

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