Idaho’s economy has demonstrated remarkable resilience during the pandemic. Relative to other places, there’s no question that COVID-19 has had an impact. To say that the pandemic has been disruptive to businesses and the workforce would be to understate the economic upheaval that so many Idahoans have experienced.
For some, it’s meant job loss or displacement. For others, it’s meant fewer hours, furloughs, or reduced wages. Despite these challenges, Idaho’s unemployment rate has stabilized more quickly than many other states and the rebound trendlines have been pointing in the right direction since last spring.
But there’s no denying that a cataclysmic year like 2020 will have lasting impacts, potentially accelerating economic trends that were already in motion (like the overall growth in our population) and exposing economic challenges that have become more pronounced (like the growing need for skilled workers across a wide array of professions).
And at the same time, the pandemic has prompted many people to turn inwards and contemplate their life’s priorities and, in some cases, consider a personal and/or professional reinvention.
The Idaho Workforce Development Council has sought to be responsive to the dramatic events of this year, providing guidance and support for many Idahoans who have seen their work lives upended by the pandemic. This past summer, in trying to understand and then share with the public what employers were thinking and planning with respect to hiring during these unusual times, we conducted an in-depth survey with more than 800 Idaho companies, speaking to personnel who are involved in the hiring process. We were trying to ascertain what industries were voicing a positive outlook in terms of hiring (i.e. where is the demand for workers?) and what skills companies are finding the greatest need for (i.e. what skills/experience should be on your resume?). What we wanted was to give working Idahoans some actionable insights in terms of hiring trends, skills gaps, and workforce training.
The product of all this research is the newly reconfigured Idaho Launch website, (https://idaholaunch.com/) where we, in a partnership with the Idaho Department of Labor, seek to lift up all of Idaho, one jobseeker at a time. Idahoans can go there to fill out a simple form to apply for money to support their training. Visitors can also search by region for the skills and professional qualities employers are seeking in that region, as well as trending jobs and associated salaries in that region. You can also match up the skills/qualities you already possess with employer needs using the Skill Sync tool. But perhaps what’s most powerful about Idaho Launch is that it enables Idahoans who are looking to upgrade their skills and professional qualities to connect with those specific training opportunities, at Idaho institutions or through online training providers. What’s more, CARES Act monies have been earmarked for workforce training, such that part or all of the cost of one’s training could be paid for.
If we know anything about this increasingly dynamic economy, it’s that people who are adaptable and always seeking to “sharpen their saws” by acquiring new skills and dispositions to be applied on the job, can and will thrive professionally. We’ve all faced plenty of adversity this year, but often, with adversity comes opportunity. Right now, workers across the state have an amazing opportunity to retake control of their careers, using the unique insights from our recent employer survey, together with support from the Workforce Development Council and a Department of Labor career planner, we can help you navigate the process of potentially accessing tuition assistance for training and education programs.
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John Young is President and owner of Young Construction Group of Idaho, Inc., a Coeur d’Alene area based regional general contractor, construction manager and design build contractor. He serves on the Executive Committee and as the Chair for the Outreach Committee for Idaho Workforce Development Council.