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Businesses tell Gov. Lynch they need skilled workers

November 24, 2009
LANCASTER — The need for skilled workers stood out as a major woe to North Country businesses at the Jobs Cabinet meeting with Governor John Lynch on Nov. 17.

"What came out is that even in spite of the economic challenges we're facing and relatively high unemployment rate, businesses still need workers," said Governor Lynch. "So we all need to work together to make sure that students graduating ... have the skills and talents they need for jobs that are available."

Mike Alberts of New England Wire Technologies Inc. mentioned his company offers internships, but that it doesn't solve his need for skilled workers. The type of skills that his company needs include engineering (both mechanical and electrical), chemistry, design and programming.

"We don't have the engineers, we don't have the programmers and that's what manufacturers need," he said.

Other concerns that were brought up included health insurance costs, workman's compensation costs, shipping costs, broadband availability and state support.

"What can we do to help you" asked Governor Lynch of over two dozen business representatives gathered at the Lancaster town hall, "to be more competitive ... and ultimately create more jobs?"

This was sixth meeting that the Governor has had so far across the state in order find the pulse of businesses of each region. Locations for previous meetings have included Laconia, Portsmouth and Nashua.

"We are going to get all this feedback and then synthesize it to see what few priorities we can go forward with in the state of New Hampshire," said Govenor Lynch.

Job seekers lacking basic math, reading, writing and lifestyle skills were also a concern.

According to Kathy Eneguess, president of the White Mountains Community College, "We spend an inordinate amount of time with our students trying to assist with basic skills," and even provide tips when going to a job interview. "Get rid of some of those earrings, lose some of those tattoos and make sure that you are speaking proper English," she said.

Employers are also concerned with new skilled workers heading elsewhere for work.

"The young people are leaving and it's difficult to attract employees," said, Mark Scarano of the Grafton County Economic Council.

Claire Prosper, whose family owns Perras Lumber Inc., noted that there are less people buying building materials to remodel their houses and that the high cost of transporting materials is pushing them out of the market. "For us to grow and expand we need the competitive edge against larger companies," she said.

Pat McCabe, director of human resources for the Appalachian Mountain Club, noted that even non-profit groups have been hit hard by health care and workman's compensation costs. "The premiums have gone up over the past two years and we cannot sustain this increase on an ongoing basis," she said.

Dave Presby founder of Presby Environmental Inc. was concerned about roadblocks to expansion and business growth. "I have a list of things that I want to do before I die and one of those is to have a plant in Whitefield," he said, "but in order to get these things done we need the support of groups within the state."

Jack McDevitt of McDevitt Trucks Inc., presented a long term investment idea to let students know what types of jobs await them and have former students tell success stories to boost job confidence. An idea that the governor took particular notice of.

"Jack's comment is interesting," said Govenor Lynch, "I believe he's saying we need to do a better job in overall marketing to the students and let them know what the opportunities are."

Peter Riviere, the executive director of the Coos Economic Development Corporation, brought up the burden associated with importing fuel for the area and mentioned that the cost could be lowered if towns made their own biofuel.

"We talked the other day about the use of algae in Berlin and Groveton to create biofuels," he said.

Governor Lynch mentioned that this meeting was unique compared to the others in the state. "What I haven't heard here that I have heard unanimously at the other round table discussions is this fervent need for excess capital," he said.

Despite the talk for improvement it does appear the state is taking a step in the right direction, according to the Governor, who stated that the state unemployment rate has gone down from 7.2 in September to 6.8 in November. "That's not necessarily predictive of any trend, but certainly at least its some encouraging news of what is going on in New Hampshire," he said.

Job Matching hosted by Employment Security

One tool that the Governor professed would increase the communication between skilled employees and prospective employers is a job match website hosted by NH Employment Security at https://nhworksjobmatch.nhes.nh.gov/. Once on the site job seekers can register and search for a job based on their skill base and post a resume. Employers can post job openings and requirements as well as searching for candidate resumes. "It provides the link between two fragmented groups," he said.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Town of Alexandria
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