Sat, May 25, 2024

For employers, it’s a war out there!

The Georgia Chamber Foundation has issued its 4th quarter economic report, and the title, the War for Talent, sums up what the state is facing.

The report looks at where Georgia stands in filling current job openings and anticipating future needs. It states that Georgia’s current workforce participation rate is about 61%, meaning 40% of adults are not engaged in the workforce. That translates to 3.2 million Georgians. At the same time, there are more than 350,000 job openings in each quarter.

The Chamber Foundation says the War for Talent is the “most significant challenge” facing employers: “The Georgia Chamber’s CEO and Executive Insights Survey, powered by Deloitte Consulting, LLP, revealed more than half of all surveyed leaders were experiencing workforce shortages and needed to increase their staffs anywhere from 1% to 20%. Surveyed leaders represented every major industry in the state as well as small, medium, and large businesses.”

It is a situation Dr. Jermaine Whirl, President of Augusta Technical College (ATC), sees daily.

“We just recently talked to a group of bankers who are having a tough time finding tellers, personal bankers, loan officers,” he said. “You would think banking would not be an area that struggled because it’s a pretty prestigious type of role. But people aren’t coming into banks like they used to. Of course, hospitality has been hit hard. Manufacturing is trying to recoup since COVID and healthcare needs every person that they can get.”

The Foundation report determined more than one in six Georgia jobs require an occupational license and one in four high-demand jobs require a license. That brings the 22 schools in the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), including ATC, into the forefront of providing skilled employees.

Whirl said that is not to downplay the importance of a four-year college degree. However, many employers are now focused on soft skills and technical skills. An individual with both can earn a lot of money, while at the same time, continuing to pursue a four-year degree.

“We always encourage students to get those skills needed to get a sustainable wage. Then, once you get to a company like Aurubis, they are more than willing to pay for you to go get a bachelor’s degree,” he explained. “Why go into debt, when you can get a great education here, go to work, and then work on your bachelor’s degree online, or even on the weekends and nights? And let somebody else pay for that.”

He said most employers no longer have the luxury of time to wait for a college graduate. They have jobs they need to fill sooner rather than later.

The Foundation study said employers need to change the way they recruit workers, particularly from four talent pools currently being under-utilized.

Chris Clark, President and CEO of the Georgia Chamber, expanded on that during the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Luncheon series last month. He said the underused talent pools include veterans who want to work, refugees who came to the U.S. to work, and individuals with handicaps.

He added, “You have men and women that are looking for a second chance after they’ve been to prison. We have programs to help get them into work for you.”

A local organization is available to help both business owners and previously incarcerated job seekers find each other.

Charlotte Garnes is the Executive Director of ReNforce, an organization aiming to tap into an untapped work pool.

ReNforce ( was one of 46 non-government organizations (NGOs) recently announced as a grant recipient by the Community Foundation for the CSRA.

“ReNforce, can partner and work with businesses to provide training to ensure that they are tapping into that untapped work pool,” said Executive Director, Charlotte Garnes. “What that would look like is reaching out to ReNforce, we will provide that support, we will provide that training, we would educate you on some of the challenges and barriers and not only the challenges and the barriers, but the successes of what it looks like when you include justice impacted individuals into the workforce.”

Garnes, herself a formerly incarcerated individual, said her organization can offer programs to help job seekers navigate their return to public life, develop skills needed to be employable, and provide social and emotional support. She said the Augusta area has the state’s second-highest number of formerly imprisoned individuals who have returned home and need employment.

“I feel like businesses that are not reaching out to us, you’re missing out,” she said. “You’re missing out on great talent; you’re missing out on inclusivity. And you’re missing out on changing the narrative in this community.”

The need to cultivate and retain employees will continue for years to come, according to the Chamber Foundation report. It says there will be an expected job growth of 46% by 2050, more than 3.1 million new jobs that will need to be filled. It said not having individuals with the necessary training and skills will limit the economic impact of the ongoing job growth, making the development of the talent pipeline critical to Georgia’s future.

Whirl said ATC is ready, pointing to the creation of new campuses to train healthcare and automotive industry job seekers, the supply chain campus in Thomson, and the Advanced Manufacturing campus under construction in Columbia County.”

“We’ve been calling it the “Innovation I-20 Corridor plan,” he said. “All of these different sites are specific, what we’re calling a regional training center. And they’re really hyper-focused on all of our big industries, aviation, transportation, healthcare, it/cyber, and manufacturing. That’s what we’ve been really focused on within our five-year strategic plan.”

Still to come for ATC is the Dec. 7 announcement for the location of a microenterprise center, planned for Broad Street in downtown Augusta. The center, a partnership between Augusta’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and ATC, will create a space for business development. It will serve as an incubator for entrepreneurs and small business start-ups, as well as welcoming existing businesses to use the shared space.

The full Georgia Chamber Foundation report is available at:

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