#1 What is your view on Monroe County’s economic situation and outlook?
I think what we’re seeing lately is more recent college graduates and people who were not engaged are now becoming engaged in their job search. Some of this has to do with adjusting the extended unemployment insurance. There were a number of people who were eligible to collect the maximum duration and now that has been cut back and when the benefits stop, they become more serious. I am cautiously optimistic because I just see the amount of layoffs taking place and I definitely think, although our situation is improving, there are certain pockets where downsizing is continuing. We’re involved with the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and New York State Open for Business promotional programs. This is the second year of this initiative and we are collectively identifying resources, available grants, new and expanding business and economic development opportunities in the various regions across the state. It’s a competitive process and we’ve done relatively well in the Finger Lakes Region. The data reports that we have recovered all of the 20,000 jobs that were lost during the recession.
#2 What are the current “hot” career fields?
We have a very diverse, knowledge-based economy in this region. If you look at this Economic Development Council they’ve identified specific sectors, some of which include agriculture, food processing, optics and photonics. When you look at the number of people who were employed by the three major employers in the past and as that total declined, there are still opportunities in the smaller and medium sized companies that are related to optics and the whole photonics area. Other sectors include health care and medical devices. In this region we have the largest number of patents that were filed in probably the country come out of Rochester. The U of R and High Tech Rochester are also involved in what we would call advanced health care and medical devices. Advanced Manufacturing is another one that they’re always talking about and they’ve added tourism as well in our nine county region. Education is also a very big industry when you look at all of the colleges and universities that we have providing education and devoting research funds to not only our residents but on a global basis. The identified strong specific sectors that currently and in the future represent our region’s economy should provide a job-seeker with a plan for developing a career. The Economic Development Council’s goal is to have 50,000 new jobs created by the end of2016.
The middle skills gap is another area of need. Thousands of jobs will be available when the baby boomers retire and these middle skills really are the types of jobs that can’t be performed overseas. These jobs have to do with the skill trades so they may not necessarily require a Bachelor’s degree but rather an Associate’s degree, along with appropriate certifications, or credentials. What we are doing right now with the Workforce Development group is a survey of all of the businesses that are out there and the jobs that they continue to say they can’t fill to identify why, what are the gaps, and what should be done from an education or training standpoint. In addition to our training grants, there may be grants available at colleges and universities that are shorter-term middle skills related.
#3 If someone is unemployed or looking to change careers, what advice could you give them?
I think that they need to be engaged and proactive, the tools are available and they need to use them fully. They need to do their homework and research, be willing to be flexible, and make some changes relative to their career and possibly even their income expectations. I’m sure that people have skills that are adaptable to the newer, growing industries but it’s hard to recognize that unless they do their own research and look at the things that are going on in the local economy and be very open to opportunities. At RochesterWorks! we have training grants available and we work with the Department of Labor to provide on the job training opportunities. If someone does have skills and there’s a gap, and we have an employer who is willing to hire them, we can provide some on the job training dollars for that employer as an incentive. I think a lot of people who have been out of work for a while might think “Well, I can’t really get trained” but there are opportunities available to them. Employers have been and continue to be very selective because there are a lot of people out there with a lot of talent. Employers must recognize that an employee working in any field for a number of years certainly had to gain knowledge on the job. Everyone had to be trained at some point in time and we are encouraging employers to hire talented individuals who could benefit from on the job training provided by us and open up opportunities for the future.
Interested in learning more? Please visit our website at http://www.rochesterworks.org for more information regarding our career development workshops, training opportunities, and career advisement services.