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NH’s skills gap and unemployment rate may cause companies to look elsewhere

New Hampshire’s 2.6% unemployment rate and the increasing skills gap are cause for alarm for many employers– they can’t find qualified people to fill positions, reported NHPR. It’s having a massive impact on sectors like manufacturing and the trades. Many could be forced to look to other states for expansion and growth. Several businesses have begun reviving partnerships with schools and community colleges to close the divide and keep New Hampshire students–and businesses–in the Granite State. 

New Hampshire’s workforce is aging faster than the national average–almost 60% of our workers are over 45, reported the Boston Globe. According to Senior Demographer Ken Johnson at the Carsey Center for Public Policy, more young people leave the state after high school or college graduation–10.6% between 2000 and 2009, compared to only 4% in the 1990’s. If these trends continue, they could have a significant impact on NH’s economy, particularly as Baby Boomers start to retire.

Many business leaders are voicing their concerns:

“Right now, if a company is really growing, chances are they are looking outside of the state for expansion,” says Val Zanchuk, president of the industrial parts maker Graphicast in Jaffrey.

He says if you are a big manufacturer looking to, say, build a new plant, New Hampshire is not where you are going to do it. The workers just aren’t here.

“Some companies are just going to throw in the towel and move someplace else, where there are people available,” says Zanchuk.

Companies like Graphicast are partnering with local schools, where more districts are revitalizing their Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. In CTE programs, students earn both high school and college credit for everything from accounting to engineering and get hands on professional experience:

“When you look at the list of programs in New Hampshire, it’s everything from accounting to welding, white-collar careers to blue-collar careers, and all of the CTE programs lead to high wages and high demand jobs,”  says Eric Feldborg, director of career and technical education for the state Department of Education.

New Hampshire’s 28 CTE centers are partnering with businesses in industries beyond the traditional offerings, industries like biomedical engineering, digital media arts, and computer networking. Building on technical skills, students learn how to problem solve, become acquainted with different professional environments, and develop other soft skills that are proven to drive success in a variety career paths, like seeing a project through to it’s end:

“It’s a different caliber of student preparedness, and I think the employers really appreciate that,” says David Warrender, director of career and technical education at the Huot Technical Center in Laconia.

Read more here.

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