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Huerfano employment picture improving

by William T. Beverly, Ph.D.
WALSENBURG- In September 2011, Huerfano County’s unemployment rate came in at 9.8%, a welcome improvement over August’s 10.4%. A full point was gained over the September 2010 rate of 10.9%. This is good!
Meanwhile, the Colorado unemployment rate for September 2011 was 7.6% down from 8.3% in August; not far from its rate of 8.4% in September 2010.
The Huerfano County unemployment rate is still very high. It ranks among the top five unemployed counties in the state which include Dolores (12.9%), Costilla (10.6%), Lake (10.3%), and Saguache (9.9%).
The Colorado State Labor Department recently reported receiving a $5 million dollar Technical Skills training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to launch a training initiative that will prepare workers for careers in Information Technology, Advanced Manufacturing, and the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services industries (with a focus on Aerospace).
According to the department of labor, “Many Coloradans are lacking the skills to compete in these industries and the problem will only get worse in the years ahead if action isn’t taken now.” Director Ellen Golombek said,
“Our economic recovery must focus on skills, not just jobs.” “This grant – called Strategies to Advance Colorado’s Highly Skilled Workforce — is designed to help close Colorado’s growing skills gap.”
The department released a statement saying, “Even in an economy with an unemployment rate over 8 percent, employers in high-demand, high-wage occupations are still not able to find workers with the right skills to fill their job openings.”
How bad is the problem? Between January of 2010 and the present, Colorado employers spent more than $19 million in H1-B visa fees to bring in 5,761 foreign workers to fill job openings they couldn’t fill with Colorado workers. These workers have taken jobs as computer programmers, computer software engineers, IT analysts and other occupations requiring technical skills.”
Meanwhile, the Walsenburg Workforce is beginning some innovative programming that should help better prepare Huerfano County workers both young and old. The office is open to all workers and is located at 928 Russell Street. Their hours are 8 am to 12 noon and 1 pm to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Contact Joan Hatcher at 719-989-7793.

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