By Charlie M. Holmes
---- — Step inside businesses around Otsego County and see if there are jobs to be filled. A surprising number are looking to hire.
With all the talk about jobs and unemployment leading up to the presidential election, that answer often leads people to scratch their heads. If businesses are looking for employees then why did the state Department of Labor find that the unemployment rate for Otsego County this past September was 7.2 percent?
“There are usually a good amount of opportunities out there. It just may not align with your wants and needs at that time,” Christian Harris, New York state labor market analyst for Otsego County, said. “It may be a personal (preference) or more than likely, a skills mismatch.”
“Something that’s very surprising to individuals is if it’s not right in front of their face they think there’s no opportunity, but sometimes it’s right around the corner, if you investigate a little further,” Harris added.
Jennifer Smallin of Bassett Hospital said she has discovered the same thing. This past week, Smallin was representing Bassett at the College and Career Day that was organized for the Career and Technical Education students at Otsego Area Occupational Center.
“It’s good for us to also clear up any misconceptions that kids have about health care,” Smallin said when talking about the event. “They think ‘I don’t want to be a doctor.’ ‘I don’t want to be a nurse.’ That’s not all health care is. There are other opportunities for anybody.”
“Something that is new is a lot of jobs in the technical field — IT,” Elva Manee said. “The medical record being electronic has created a whole new group of people who work in the hospital. Every time we come up with new imaging there’s a new specialty for the people to do those studies. We continue to need physical therapists and pharmacists and occupational therapists.”
“We’re trying to hire those, too,” Cheryl Boise said.
Manee and Boise are a part of the New Vision Health Care Program that is offered as part of CTE. Manee works as an instructor associated with Fox Hospital and Boise works as an instructor associated with Bassett. The two are a part of CTE’s business advisory board along with several other people including Robin Scobie, the vice president for nursing at Fox.
“We’re hiring more RNs and we’re looking for RNs with bachelor’s degrees to be bedside nurses,” Scobie said. “We discussed the Institute of Medicine report on nursing. I think it’s really valuable for all our members to read that because it shows that nursing is headed for more educated course work. We need more certified nurse aides that have a broader education and knowledge before they start taking care of the complex hospital patients.”
The state Department of Labor has found that those people who hold a degree generally have a lower rate of unemployment than the rest of the population. In 2011, the unemployment rate for people who had an associate degree was 6.4 percent, for those with a bachelor’s degree it was 5.8 percent and 2.9 percent for those with a master’s degree or higher. During that same time, unemployment for people who had a high school diploma or a GED was 8.7 percent.
“Generally speaking, that does hold true year after year,” Harris said. “If you take the time and get the advance degree it’s enticing for employers. The more specialized your skills are the more valued you would be, as long as you match up with what the businesses are looking for.”
Once a person has a degree it’s important for them to keep educating themselves.
“Stay engaged and keep learning,” Harris said. “Get credentialing or any sort of skills upgrading made available to you, be it through work or your local university or community college system. You have to make sure you’re relevant and that your skill set is up-to-date.”
Harris said he thinks the Baseball Hall of Fame is also a big contributor to Otsego County’s economy.
“It’s such a big draw and that’s really the goal of any economy — to get money from outside the area in,” Harris explained. “Some of the smaller economies may house what they need within it, but you’re really only going to succeed and push forward if you’re able to get other individuals either within the county spending money or spending money on a product that’s made within the county. And that’s really what Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame is.”
The state Department of Labor says that the leisure and hospitality sector is one area that has pretty good gains in regards to employment in Otsego County.
Overall, Otsego County has grown from an annual private sector job count of 19,500 in 2001 to 20,800 in 2011.
For those people who are looking for a job, Harris has a little advice.
“Know what’s local as far as the businesses in your community and what they do and what they need as far as workforce goes,” Harris said. “And don’t turn your back on manufacturing.”
To learn more about the job opportunities in the area check out the One-Stop Career Centers, Career Opportunities in Rural Education or Oneonta Job Corps.