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Local business leaders discuss workforce challenges amid pandemic

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 5:33 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa Workforce Development hosted a roundtable in Cedar Rapids on Monday for employers to share and get advice on hiring and retaining staff.

Business leaders in the area talked about obstacles like lack of child care and education-to-workforce pipelines that are preventing them from keeping employees amid a pandemic.

Kathy Leggett, with Iowa Workforce Development, said an ongoing conversation among local business leaders is more important now than ever.

”We want to connect with employers and educators to talk about strategies, funding available, a lot of things we can all work together on to get our trained skilled employees into our great businesses,” Leggett said.

It became evident during Monday morning’s roundtable discussion that a lot of obstacles local employers are facing have only been exacerbated as a result of the pandemic.

”Before the pandemic, we had a lot of job openings and we had low unemployment,” Leggett said. “So that was something we were really working on before the pandemic, is how do we help the people with barriers get training and education so we can fill these jobs we have?”

One issue that Troy Simmons, Pearson Education HR specialist, aimed to address had to do with hiring employees and keeping those employees.

”I feel like we are seeing less applications. And once we do get the applicants, they’re not staying like they should,” Simmons said.

Both Simmons and Christina Millikan, the Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa Business Development Coordinator, said one of their biggest takeaways came from a fellow employer who talked about the importance of treating potential employees in the interview process.

”Everyone needs an individualized approach when it comes to hiring as they grow in their fields and their careers,” Millikan said. “I think my biggest takeaway is to treat everyone as individuals so that we can tailor our approach to working with them.”

Other topics included offering more trade-service training at the high school level. Many employers said they want younger people to be more familiar with the option to join trade schools after high school.

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