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November 16, 2012

Experts: Keep options open for area jobs

By Charlie M. Holmes
The Daily Star

---- — With all the talk about jobs and unemployment leading up to the presidential election, that answer often leads people to scratch their heads. If businesses are looking for employees, then why did the state Department of Labor find that the unemployment rate for Otsego County this past September was 7.2 percent?

“There are usually a good amount of opportunities out there. It just may not align with your wants and needs at that time,” said Christian Harris, New York state labor market analyst for Otsego County. “It may be a personal (preference) or more than likely, a skills mismatch.”

“Something that’s very surprising to individuals is if it’s not right in front of their face they think there’s no opportunity, but sometimes it’s right around the corner, if you investigate a little further,” Harris added.

Jennifer Smallin of Bassett Hospital said she has discovered the same thing. Smallin recently represented Bassett at a College and Career Day organized for the Career and Technical Education students at Otsego Area Occupational Center.

“It’s good for us to also clear up any misconceptions that kids have about health care,” Smallin said. “They think ‘I don’t want to be a doctor.’ ‘I don’t want to be a nurse.’ That’s not all health care is. There are other opportunities for anybody.”

The state Department of Labor has found that those people who hold a degree generally have a lower rate of unemployment than the rest of the population. In 2011, the unemployment rate for people who had an associate degree was 6.4 percent, for those with a bachelor’s degree it was 5.8 percent and 2.9 percent for those with a master’s degree or higher. During that same time, unemployment for people who had a high school diploma or a GED was 8.7 percent.

“Generally speaking, that does hold true year after year,” Harris said. “If you take the time and get the advance degree it’s enticing for employers. The more specialized your skills are the more valued you would be, as long as you match up with what the businesses are looking for.”

Once a person has a degree it’s important for them to keep educating themselves.

“Stay engaged and keep learning,” Harris said. “Get credentialing or any sort of skills upgrading made available to you, be it through work or your local university or community college system. You have to make sure you’re relevant and that your skill set is up-to-date.”

The state Department of Labor says that the leisure and hospitality sector is one area that has pretty good gains in regards to employment in Otsego County.

Overall, Otsego County has grown from an annual private sector job count of 19,500 in 2001 to 20,800 in 2011.

For those people who are looking for a job, Harris has a little advice.

“Know what’s local as far as the businesses in your community and what they do and what they need as far as workforce goes,” Harris said. “And don’t turn your back on manufacturing.”

To learn more about the job opportunities in the area check out the One-Stop Career Centers, Career Opportunities in Rural Education or Oneonta Job Corps.