innovation

When you have to pivot

Job training in a different world, for a different time

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 10/28/20

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — It’s starting to feel like the job-scape is suffering from long-term coronavirus.

With Sullivan County’s unemployment rate at 10.9 percent at the end of …

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innovation

When you have to pivot

Job training in a different world, for a different time

Posted

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — It’s starting to feel like the job-scape is suffering from long-term coronavirus.

With Sullivan County’s unemployment rate at 10.9 percent at the end of August (compared to 3.7 percent in 2019*), it’s obvious that available jobs are still taking a hit.

But there is a remedy at hand.

The Career Center—part of the Center for Workforce Development—has reopened for in-person appointments after months of working virtually and re-tooling their programs to deal with the pandemic. And this matters, because innovation isn’t just about inventing a cool new something.

It’s about picking up your life and re-launching it.

If you need a new job

Maybe you had one. Maybe you got laid off, maybe you thought it was temporary.

Maybe it turned out to be permanent.

That’s where something like the Career Center, part of the Center for Workforce Development (CWD), steps in.

It fits in between job seekers and businesses, said Laura Quigley, community resources commissioner, in a Zoom interview recently. From the business standpoint, “whatever your workforce need is, we can help you.” 

And if you’re a worker?

“We work with the employed and the unemployed,” said Loreen Gebelein, director of the CWD. Even if you just need to change jobs, the Career Center will absolutely help you since they have their fingers on the pulse of available work in the county. 

In fact, as Gebelein pointed out, “people have looked at essential work” as they contemplate a change. They ask themselves, “If something happens again, am I going to keep my job?”

But right now, the pressing need is to help the unemployed.

The Career Center is known for its job fairs, but it had to pivot to create a similar experience these days. “Typically, we have a big job fair; this time it’ll be drive-through,” said Quigley. There was one in Liberty, and other ones are planned for Monticello and into the Western part of the county.

“There are still flyers with job openings and packets [of information],” she said. “It’s set up for drive-through or walk-through.”

“Drive-through makes it interesting,” Gebelein said. “We can go to different locations at a cheaper cost.”

Which means more locations, which means a broader reach in a county where transportation can still be a problem.

What other challenges are they seeing?

“People want to go back to work but are struggling with day care,” Quigley said. “We’re basically service-based jobs and public facilities. You can’t work from home.” So day care is necessary.

“Also, you might be living with someone who has compromised health, she added. How do you go back to work when you might be bringing disease home with you?

“We kind of have to ride the wave,” said youth program coordinator Lyle Mincheff. “We’re navigating technical challenges, connectivity challenges.” He was talking about the young people he works with, but it’s the same throughout the county, no matter people’s age.

But there’s good news.

 “Look at the casino [reopening]; we’re very happy about that,” Quigley said. And not to mention, “The Center for Discovery, they never shut down.”

Jobs are available in HVAC and auto mechanics. “People are looking for CDLs, truck drivers.” So, male-dominated jobs?  “They still tend to attract men, but there are female mechanics,” she said. And of truck drivers, almost eight percent are women, according to the Women in Trucking Association.

You do something different. You innovate in your own life.

What’s on the horizon?

A year ago, there were 1,000 initial unemployment claims, Quigley said. “In the pandemic, there were 10,000. A lot of folks are waiting to get called back.”

And they might not. Employers are adapting to working from home. They’ve learned that “working remotely doesn’t mean that people won’t work,” Quigley said. “People are less stressed. I think there’s some good that can come out of this.”

Some businesses are still struggling to reopen. And “This hit our lower-skilled workers harder than any other group.”

But there is potentially good news. Companies in more crowded areas are already considering relocating to the country, as has been repeatedly reported in the county’s economic development committee meetings.

They’re looking for coders. “We need to start offering that,” Quigley said. “But we have to keep it in balance. We are still hospitality-based, tourism-based.”

Health care is a growing field. “Residential facilities will grow.”

But, back to the workers who need more skills: “We can put that foundation in place,” Quigley said. “I’m excited about that challenge.”

“If a second wave hits, contact the Center for Workforce Development,” Gebelein said. “We can help.”

She would know. Loreen Gebelein turned to the Career Center when she decided to leave her previous career. “I used CWD’s services, redid my resume and took a civil service exam,” she told county director of communications Dan Hust earlier this year.

Gebelein landed in the county attorney’s office, eventually moved to the CWD, and is now the director.

“We are reaching out to every single person who’s out of work, no matter where they are,” she said at the time, and it’s still true now.

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