Unemployment in East Alabama continues to decline but the demand for employees remains high.
“We have a lot of entry-level all the way up to highly skilled opportunities in our community,” Heather Brothers-New, President and CEO of the Gadsden and Etowah County Chamber of Commerce. “There are opportunities anywhere you can imagine, from fast food to seasonal retail jobs. There’s a lot of need in our manufacturing and healthcare sectors.”
SEE ALSO: Goodyear union votes to permanently close Gadsden tire plant
New says there are more positions available than there are qualified bodies in the labor pool to fill them.
“We need them, we need them back to work. We’ve got automotive customers that need products,” said Mark Weaver, the Human Resources Director and Stamped Products Inc. in Gadsden.
Many employers share this feeling and had to change their strategy to attract employees.
“Now we had to get aggressive to where had to hire a full-time recruiter. We jumped on social media hard. We are updating websites. We are really just putting a lot of information out there and reaching out to every resource we can,” said Gary McVicker, General Manager at Prince Metal Stampings.
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One resource is Gadsden State.
The college has made it a goal to specifically help displaced employees from the Goodyear plant by offering them classes to enhance their employment opportunities.
1,400 people lost their jobs through the closure of the plant, which completely stopped operating in 2020 as the pandemic kicked in.
“Reskill themselves in some way so that they can now be employed in other high wage, high demand areas,” Kathy Murphy, President of Gadsden State, said was the point of helping those displaced by the closure.
Although there are problems, New says there are signs of improvement as more people than expected attended their last job fair.
“At least we had one applicant per employer. So we can tell that it’s coming back, it’s just taking longer than any of us anticipated,” said Brothers-New.
New explains a shallow labor pool isn’t the only issue.
She’s heard of problems finding quality child care and believes that has to be fixed for employment numbers to continue to grow.