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Job seekers discouraged by local market

July 4, 2017 GMT

Lack of opportunity, poor hours, pay cited as common obstacles in most recent state labor report

Lack of job opportunities is the most common obstacle locally for people trying to improve their employment situation, according to a recent state report.

Potential job seekers also cited inadequate pay and inadequate hours offered by area employers as obstacles, according to the Labor Availability Report for North Platte from the Nebraska Departments of Labor and Economic Development.

The study, done in fall 2016, estimated that there were 5,007 potential job seekers, ages 18 and older, and 1,226 active job seekers in North Platte. Most potential job seekers — 82.8 percent — were employed at the time. Others were out of work or seeking to re-enter the workforce after time spent in retirement or homemaking.

“I briefly went through the results and will certainly be analyzing the findings even more closely in the coming weeks,” said Gary Person, executive director of the North Platte Area Chamber and Development Corporation. “For the most part it certainly validates the concerns we hear daily from our Chamber business members — regarding a labor shortage, frustration trying to hire new employees as well as the lack of skills from so many who are seeking employment and in some cases even among the existing workforce.”

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The survey indicated that more than 28 percent of potential job seekers reported having a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, Person said, there is a gap left by a lack of vocational trades skills because of reductions in school programs.

“I know our local education systems are trying to adapt to encouraging students into skills pathways at a younger age,” Person said. “As a society we have to do a better job reaching the younger generation and encouraging them to go into the vocational trades as well as learning basic life skills.”

Person said Americans are paying a heavy price for the lack of vocational training in today’s labor force.

“(It is) because so many school systems over the past couple of decades across the country de-emphasized or got completely away from vocational education because of the expense of the training, lack of teachers in those areas, and the mindset most students needed to have a four-year college degree,” Person said. “There are great careers and financial reward out there in the trade sector, and you don’t have to have a mountain of college debt to accomplish it.”

Job seekers who responded to the survey indicated they would need an hourly wage of $15 or more or a yearly salary of at least $44,500 in order to change jobs. Many said other important factors included health insurance and a work schedule that fits their needs, as well as retirement benefits.

The North Platte Chamber initiated a project to help businesses meet some of those demands.

“It’s one of the reasons we launched our new

WorkNP.com workforce recruitment plan to partner with local Chamber businesses to recruit additional skilled labor to Lincoln County,” Person said.

Person said the chamber will study the findings.

“We plan to have a Department of Labor official visit with our economic development committee in the near future regarding the labor study and its findings,” Person said.