Kinexus Urges Focus on Job Training as Inflation Looms as New Employment Concern

Kinexus, the umbrella group that oversees job seeking and job training activities in Southwest Michigan is out with it’s monthly analysis of the numbers:  jobs available vs. potential workers to fill those jobs.  And, not surprisingly, it’s a mixed bag of observations amid the continuing pandemic, changing worker priorities, and looming inflation fears.

Unemployment in the three-county SW Michgan region of Berrien, Cass and Van Buren (BCVB) has continued to inch downward, however fewer workers are in the job market.  Some have ‘hung it up’—retired—as the Baby Boomer generation fades out of its working years.  Other potential workers continue to be plagued by challenges related to the pandemic or their personal situation:  transportation and child care among the biggest obstacles.

Kinexus points out that at MIWorks.org, there is assistance available for specific workers to overcome obstacles to rejoining the workforce.  Applicants can go to the website and have their individual situation reviewed and, potentially, a specific plan developed for the aid they need to return to the workforce.

“Transportation, child care, work clothes, training or books are all examples of areas where assistance may be available,” according to Kinexus Communications Director Mary Morphey.   She says the agency wants to help workers solve specific issues that prevent them from returning to work.  “These aren’t ‘blanket solutions’”, she says, “but tailored for the individual based on followup by a MIWorks.org staff person.”   The first step for the potential job seeker is going to the website and filling out a form.

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Kinexus Vice President for Government Affairs Al Pscholka observes that there has been somewhat of a “hunkering down” among existing workers.  And we may be past most of the “dropping out” from the workforce that’s been a hallmark of the pandemic period.  Pscholka says the growing fears of inflation may be driving a new attitude of “I’ll stay put and keep my job.”

Pscholka, a former state representative and Michigan Budget Director under Governor Rick Snyder, points out that a national poll shows almost 90 per cent of Americans are somewhat concerned about inflation, and 58 percent said they are VERY concerned.

Meanwhile, he says, the trend continues for lots of job postings, especially for higher level jobs.  Unfortunately, the available work force doesn’t have those skills, they need more training.   Kinexus leaders feel they are answering some of that need with an employer-focused program called “Going Pro.”

Sixty-seven SW Michigan companies have applied for ‘training dollars’ which would help train more than 2,000 workers if all the applications were approved.   Of course, some won’t be, however Pscholka feels the ‘Going Pro’ effort is exactly what existing employers and potential workers need right now.  It’s flexible for different industries and situations and works for both new and existing positions requiring training.  Kinexus expects the program to be renewed for 2022 and urges employers to look into it for their businesses.

The Kinexus team shared various observations from their surveys and statistical reporting at their monthly roundtable meeting with business reporters.   Here are some of those bullet points:

Additional Job Posting Info and Context

·       Job postings continue to increase across all local geographies month-over-month.

o   November 2021 saw posting growth ranging from 2.6% in Berrien to 10.3% in Van Buren County.

o   Job postings are currently over two times higher than November 2019’s pre-COVID baselines.

o   Unique postings continue to increase region-wide with no end in sight, highlighting the talent shortage.

o   This trend has continued near-unabated since the cessation of the March 2020 COVID shutdowns.

·       Low-skill postings continue to dominate the BCVB online posting landscape.

o   Low-skill postings account for 54% of all local job postings with an educational requirement listed.

o   By contrast, high-skill openings came in second, accounting for 51% of openings.

o   Note that job scraping software may produce duplicative results for educational requirements.

o   This said, it is still apparent that job listing trends are skewed singularly towards low-skill candidates.

·       We are seeing growth in median advertised wages throughout our service region.

o   The median advertised wage for BCVB employment increased to $18.52/hour in November.

o   This is an increase of $0.49 from October 2021.

o   It also represents the third straight month of advertised wage growth in-region.

o   Advertised wage rates remain markedly depressed from pre-COVID levels, however.

o   This is likely attributable more towards the shift in labor demand towards low-skill occupations, however