Georgia employers lay out need for more skilled workers

From pilots to nurses to refrigeration technicians, Georgia employers have jobs to fill, but not always enough skilled workers to fill the openings.

And the workers they need should come equipped with not only classroom and technical knowledge, but also “soft” skills such as the ability to communicate with customers and work in groups and recognize that they represent the company even when they’re not on the clock.

Representatives from several major companies including Kroger and Kaiser Permanente detailed their workforce challenges Wednesday at Clayton State University during a meeting of Gov. Nathan Deal’s High Demand Career Initiative.

Wednesday’s comments from business leaders echoed the findings in the High Demand report published late last year.

Now, Deal and other state officials, including leaders of the public and technical college systems, are meeting with employers to hear more about the job demands and how to expand the pipeline of skilled workers.

“We have a great need for CDL (commercial drivers license) drivers,” Alisa Fiser, group director of learning and leadership development with Coca-Cola, said, giving one example of a hiring need. But the company wants CDL drivers with the skills to interact with customers and represent the company well, she said.

To better help with some of the challenges, Georgia’s schools should better align their programs with the job needs of employers in the state, and that alignment should begin in middle and high school, the business leaders said.

Students should get more exposure to different types of jobs early, and schools should offer more technology- and science-related courses, they said.

Another High Demand Career Initiative meeting with business leaders is set for October at Albany State University.

After employees detailed the skilled worker shortage in initial meetings last year, the state expanded its Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant providing free technical college enrollment to students pursing a degree or credential in a targeted industry needing workers. Computer programming was added to satisfy core requirements in state high schools, and state and education officials also collaborated to launch a film academy and cyber security initiative.

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