Delaware sees 14 percent unemployment, experts focus on workforce development
DELAWARE – Experts say the pandemic has caused Delaware’s economy to come to a standstill. On Tuesday, business and community leaders participated in the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s virtual conference discussing how to get Delawareans back to work and help the economy recover. One of the main takeaways is a focus on workforce development.
“Are we going to see employees just return to their previous jobs or are they going to need to transition to new occupations,” asks Kyle DeMaria, the Community Development and Regional Outreach Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
Delaware is currently seeing an almost 14 percent unemployment rate but experts are hoping to get ahead of the curve and prevent this situation from mimicking previous economic downturns.
“There’s a real opportunity now to as we move forward in the next few months to do things differently and to think closely about how we can create opportunity for people without a bachelor’s degree,” says DeMaria.
Officials say 80 percent of employees, that will be needed 10 years from now, are already in the workforce. So there’s a growing emphasis on skill based employment instead of only hiring young workers with formal education. “If we ignore our existing workforce, that’s where the skills are constantly changing,” says Pat Scruggs, the founder of Scruggs & Associates.
Experts say jobs adapt as the economy changes so there’s a renewed focus on workforce development, encouraging employers to offer opportunities for continuing education and additional training.
“I think the pandemic has helped us understand that we can do a lot online that we shied away from previously and that includes more online learning so I think some of those ways of doing training will be transformed shortly,” says Lisa Nisenfeld, the president of Working Designs NW.
Experts say in order for companies to move past this economic situation, they need to focus on growing talent instead of searching for new talent. “If we could use the down time of a recession effectively we would perhaps be able to bring people back from a recession more quickly,” says Nisenfeld.
During Tuesday’s conference, experts also addressed ways Delaware could help encourage workforce development. They discussed implementing programs like WorkShare which helps companies avoid layoffs by preserving jobs for trained workers. They also say employer training tax credits may help promote workforce development.
Economic experts also say there’s a big focus on the types of jobs that may be needed in the future. Many entry level positions may be related to the pandemic response like contact tracers, as well as consumer demand meaning more delivery drivers. There’s also a need for more Information Technology, or IT, jobs because so many people are working and learning from home.