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Workforce Forum Focuses on Finding Skilled Workers for Jobs in the Valley

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Workforce forum held on June 12 Workforce forum held on June 12
Eric Fontaine, Rexnord plant manager Eric Fontaine, Rexnord plant manager
Sharon Johnson, Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board CEO Sharon Johnson, Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board CEO
WEYERS CAVE, Va. (WVIR) -

The Shenandoah Valley's low unemployment rate is making it more difficult for the region's largest industry to find skilled workers for open jobs. 

A workforce forum held at Blue Ridge Community College on June 12 focused on finding strategies to fill that gap. 

The Valley's latest unemployment rate, as of April 2017, is 3.4%. Augusta County's is even lower than that. This low percentage is challenging companies to find new places to look for workers, especially in highly-skilled, high-tech jobs.

Employers, educators, and policy makers got a look at the Local Workforce Development Area Plan at the forum. 

Manufacturing, health care, and retail are the region's largest private sector employers. Transportation, warehousing, and management industries are experiencing high-growth in the Valley.

The study found shortfalls of trained workers in several fields. This includes nursing and teaching assistants, construction supervisors, and industrial machinery mechanics.

“Economic growth, especially now when it's picking up and it's been strong in the region, it's very difficult to find people and very difficult to find people with the skills that we need,” said Rexnord Plant Manager Eric Fontaine. 

“We certainly need to work together and leverage our resources and be as efficient and effective as possible in delivering services and supporting job seekers and businesses,” said Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board CEO Sharon Johnson. 

Manufacturers say they are investing more in on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.

The Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board hopes the public and private sectors will work better together and will find ways to prepare people for careers of the future.