2022 Projection: It’s going to be a year of opportunity for job seekers to reimagine their career and the way they work.
How would you describe the current climate of the workforce?
Challenging. We all know there’s a shortage of workers. There just is. That’s the reality of the situation. Interestingly enough, it crosses every sector. It’s not just manufacturing that’s struggling. It’s education, construction, health care, service industries. That’s something that’s very different about this current economic climate. It’s hurting everything.
What is causing demand for employees to outpace supply, and is it a problem that will persist in 2022?
It’s going to take several years to adjust or recover from what’s going on. You saw baby boomers retire at an unprecedented rate. There’s unfortunately not enough supply of Gen Xers and millennials to fill all those positions. Baby boomers made that decision that life’s too short, and this is what they saved for and worked for. They were ready to go. They were also labeled an at-risk population at the beginning of the crisis. They also are, statistically, the wealthiest generation. So, they had the means to go ahead and do it. That’s part of the root issue. You also have an alarming amount of women not returning to the workforce, which has really hurt and contributed to this labor crisis. I don’t think people realize how much women in the workforce contribute to overall GDP growth. We’ve got to reengage women, or it could have a negative effect on GDP over the next three to five years.
The city is applying for a grant of up to $17.5 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for job training. What areas are you targeting with grant funds, if awarded?
It’s not due until the end of January, so we’re really being thoughtful and careful with our application. It’s going to be very competitive. There’s no doubt about it. If one organization in our region or state receives the money, then truly it’s a win for everybody. The goal is to serve Missourians and upskill them, train them and get them back to work. Our specific goal is to hit the economy where we feel and see that it’s hurting the most. That’s the supply chain issue with training and transportation logistics. That’s of course health care, which is a high-demand industry pre-COVID, during COVID and certainly post-COVID. In addition to that, we are writing in a child care component, which is not often seen. But child care is a major barrier. It was a barrier pre-COVID and now certainly will be post-COVID. Think about how many people rely on child care to get to work. If it’s not available, you don’t go to work.
Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc. recently announced the Let’s Get to Work Fund to support workers and job seekers who face transportation barriers that affect their ability to get hired or to maintain their current jobs. How big of an issue is this locally?
It’s a huge issue. This is nationwide. When we get out and talk to other workforce regions across the nation … we’re all facing the same challenges. Child care and transportation pre-COVID, during COVID and post-COVID consistently is a barrier to employment. This is an amazing opportunity for our community to address some of those issues. I am so excited about it and so thankful for it. It is a true community collaborative effort and is just the beginning of addressing this transportation barrier. We intend to fully do our best to utilize that fund for our clients.
Adrianna Norris became a first-time business owner with the opening of Finley River Chiropractic; PaPPo’s Pizzeria & Pub launched its newest location; and Huey Magoo’s opened its second store in the Ozarks.