As more workers are needed some take advantage of opportunities

Published: May. 17, 2021 at 6:39 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Many business owners say they’re struggling to find workers as they reopen and capacity limits increase. Some are blaming the enhanced federal unemployment benefits.

A deeper look at the labor shortage brings up other issues. Sunae Villavaso is the director of the New Orleans Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development. She said, “In order to compete you’re going to have to increase the wages.”

Her office is tasked with getting the labor force trained and ready.

Villavaso said, “You have to increase the pay. Everybody wants to feel like they matter. Then you still have maybe some childcare issues and then you have some elderly care issues too.”

She said their office is working to steer people into living wage jobs. Right now in New Orleans Villavaso said that number is $11.19 per hour.

Dr. Maurice Sholas says the majority of the previous hospitality workforce is just getting to their fully vaccinated window. He said, “I will say that they’re putting these workers in a really difficult situation. Many of these people that are well and not elderly were not in any prioritized category. Just like we were patient over the last year, be patient to let people go through the process.”

Villavaso said a quote from a former colleague sticks with her. She said, “‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ So a lot of people are not aware of what’s out there and what’s available to them.”

The pandemic changed that for some people. She said, “They had the opportunity to say you know what I want something better for myself.”

She says it’s showing in her office’s training and placement initiatives where Job One is training people in healthcare, IT and green infrastructure. The office set a goal to place 1000 people in high wage, high demand jobs by June 30th. They’re more than halfway to that goal.

Villavaso said, “You know even with the unemployment benefits there was no consistency in that so there was a lot of worry there.”

She said Job One also offers employer assistance to help businesses shore up their payroll. “On the job training where we pay up to 50 percent of the wages. Another one is work experience where we pay all of the wages for up to six months.” The workforce office also has a program through the National Dislocated Worker grant where they can place people for up to 12 months and pay their salary.

People can find out more information about both worker training and employer assistance through Job One at 504-658-4500.

The latest numbers from the Louisiana Workforce office list just over 14,000 jobs with health care positions with the largest number of openings near 3000.

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