Pensacola needs a comprehensive approach to solving the labor shortage
Colin Warren-Hicks’ recent article, “The Labor Shortage in Pensacola is Taking Its toll on Every Level” provided an important analysis of the challenges we face with our local labor market. The pandemic has dramatically, and likely permanently, changed the landscape for employers and workers in ways few could have foreseen. I hear daily about the labor shortage from business owners and managers who are desperate for new hires. The question now is “what do we do with it”?
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, there was a lot of concern about our economy and what the economic recovery might look like. Some financial “experts” have predicted that a full economic recovery will not occur for three to four years. Fortunately, thanks to the strong leadership of our state government and our ever-resilient local business community, we recovered much faster.
The pre-pandemic unemployment rate in Escambia County was 3.4%, which almost immediately reached a pandemic high of 12.6% in April 2020. We have since recovered and, based on latest data, our unemployment rate has fallen to 3.7%. While this is great news, we are now back in the situation where we have more jobs open than we have qualified people to fill them.
Pensacola Business Growth: Holistic and community approach needed
“It doesn’t matter the industry”: Labor shortage in Pensacola is taking its toll on every level
At the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, we bring together experts to develop strategies to address the employment challenges facing our businesses. During these initial discussions, we realized that there is no easy answer to this problem. That being said, we will continue to work towards solutions that will help our businesses and our community.
Through the Greater Pensacola Chamber Foundation, we recently released our Pensacola 2030 Plan. This master plan was developed over the past year with input from stakeholders across the community, workforce being one of the five focus areas of Pensacola 2030. Our initial work focused on collecting data to establish a baseline of where we currently are with our workforce. . We then worked to develop goals that we want our community to achieve by 2030. You can find our Pensacola 2030 plan at pensacolachamber.com/pensacola-2030/.
The workforce goals we established in the Pensacola 2030 plan take a cradle-to-career perspective and address everything from ensuring that current residents seeking employment have access to tomorrow’s workforce preparation training with targets even for our youngest students. . This holistic approach is essential as we seek to close the gaps that exist in our current workforce ecosystem.
But we have immediate labor needs facing our local businesses. I hear about it daily from business owners and managers in virtually every professional field. Hospitals need doctors and nurses, information technology companies need employees with specific training, the construction and contracting industry needs skilled workers. I even hear from law firms that desperately need lawyers! All industries in our region are faced with this reality and desperately need help.
Solutions to this problem will require input and assistance from all facets of our community: businesses, the educational community, non-profit organizations, local government and job seekers. We need a comprehensive approach that addresses immediate employment needs while making adjustments to education and training programs that will help provide new workers. This challenge provides an opportunity to reinvent workforce development in our community.
While it may be easy to downplay our local jobs and labor struggles by saying that this employment problem is a national problem, which it is, it is. our work at the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce to address and resolve issues in our community. This will be an ongoing community effort. I invite you to join us and be part of the solution.
Todd Thomson is president and CEO of the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce.
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Labor Shortage: Pensacola Needs Comprehensive Approach | Opinion