Friday, August 26, 2011

Labor Director Roger Madsen spells it out

Computers, soft skills, and the right work ethic get you the job

By Alannah Allbrett

Roger Madsen, Director of the Idaho Department of Labor (DOL) gave an open presentation to approximately 40 business people Aug. 18.
The focus of the visit to Orofino was twofold: first to meet with employers and representatives to gain feedback from them as to their employment challenges, how the DOL may assist them, and to find out what business leaders would like to happen in the labor market.

Secondly, he presented information on the Idaho Career Connect and HireOne Idaho programs, with the assistance of Kathryn Tacke, Regional Economist for DOL and Ricia Lasso, Regional Business Specialist.

Madsen, who laughingly called himself a “bureaucrat from Boise,” held an informative and personable question and answer session following the meeting. Each employer had the opportunity to ask Madsen questions directly. Calling on many people by name, Madsen said that he would take their concerns back to the Governor.

Employers were in agreement, stating that many youth (and some adults) whom they have hired have not had a good work ethic, nor had the appropriate attitude or “soft skills” (people skills) to meet business requirements.
Some employers have resorted to hiring migrant workers or using temporary agencies to fill their workforce needs when they would have preferred to hire local workers. They have not been able to get people willing to work hard and who show up when they are expected.

An aging workforce is also a factor when considering future employment staffing. It was reported the average journeyman employee (in HVAC) is in his mid 50’s. The skilled, trained labor force is aging and not being replaced.

“There is currently a skills mismatch,” stated Kathryn Tacke. “The skills unemployed individuals have are not necessarily those needed in the growing health care field, for instance,” she said. Re-training, mastering computer software programs, and acquiring good soft skills are the biggest factors in gaining full-time employment

The HireOne Program provides benefits and tax credits for qualifying businesses. It was passed during the 2011 legislative session and allows tax credits based upon an employer’s unemployment insurance tax rating, the number of new employees hired, and the average unemployment rate during the prior year for the county where the job was created and the work that was performed.

Employers may qualify for the credit when they pay $12 an hour or more, plus benefits, for jobs created and performed with an annual average unemployment rate of at least 10 percent, and $15 an hour or more, plus benefits, in counties with lower rates.

The Career Connect Program connects students and would-be employees with business owners who might be able to utilize their skills. It educates the community about the scope of potential careers and provides for partnering with local schools.

Additionally, the following programs are available to help Idaho employers hire new employees:

Workforce Development Training Fund – equips new full-time employees with new skills or upgrades skills of current full-time workers. Up to $3,000 is available in rural counties for each new job.

On-the-Job Training – allows employers to receive partial reimbursement for training costs for providing on-the-job training.

Customized Training – provides customized training to meet company needs or to teach specific occupational skills.

Registered Apprenticeships – combine on-the-job learning with related technical instruction.

Idaho Internships – offer short-term work assignments and job shadowing.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit – offsets employers’ federal tax liabilities by as much as $2,400 per new hire, when qualified.

Kid Connect – connects businesses, schools, and kids.

To find out if your business qualifies for HireOne you may learn more at the following website: or contact the Department of Labor. Ricia Lasso may be reached at 457-8789 Ext. 3992. Kathryn Tacke may be reached at 799-5000 Ext. 3984. Heather Leach, Manager of the Orofino and Grangeville offices may be reached at 476-5506 Ext. 3751.

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