Report Shows Money Talks in Local Workforce Development

Thursday, March 29, 2018

How many workers are available in the labor pool for high-demand jobs, and what salary would lure them to Phelps County?

A recent Workforce Availability Report requested by the Phelps County Development Corporation provided the answers.

PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said he posed these questions to economic development partners at the Nebraska Public Power District, and they provided him with a valuable resource that will help existing employers and potential new employers.

“Right now, workforce development is one of the top issues facing communities like Holdrege,” Tillery said. “We thought this would be an invaluable asset to companies like BD, Allmand and the hospital because they are always in a hiring mode.”

Tillery said the report also helps PCDC be prepared for potential new companies who have an interest in expanding or building in the county.

“If we have the information ready, we save time and we demonstrate our professional capability by having that information at our fingertips rather than waiting until they ask,” Tillery said.

The report shows the estimated number of workers available in food processing and cooking; meat-packing and slaughtering; butchers and meat cutters; and meat, poultry and fish cutters and trimmers.

The report studied a labor pool area containing 32 zip codes surrounding Phelps County, including towns like Lexington, Kearney, Amherst, Alma, Minden and Arapahoe.

PCDC requested workforce availability at an entry wage of $13 an hour and a more experienced worker wage of $17 an hour, and the results were surprising.

At $13 an hour, the report showed a labor pool of 1,429 workers available who are trained in those occupations or similar occupations.

When the hourly wage is increased to $17 an hour, that labor pool jumped to 2,421.

The report also showed that a job that pays $13 an hour would attract 37 percent (16,063 people in the 32 zip codes) of the entire labor force in any job.

When that wage rises to $17 an hour, the labor pool rises to 59 percent of the entire workforce (or 25,446 people in the 32 zip codes).

“Money talks,” Tillery said. “While it’s tough to find good employees, this report gives employers some sense of optimism that there are workers available and that they are movable at certain pay levels.”

Tillery said he is often surprised at how far workers will commute for the job they want. Phelps County has commuters from as far away as Hall and Custer counties.

“It’s sometimes surprising to see how far people will commute here for the job they want,” Tillery said.

Tillery said this report provides a roadmap to area employers about the available labor pool and attractive pay rates that will hopefully help in recruitment efforts.

Tillery said these types of reports are available for other types of job categories. He encourages business owners who have questions about the labor pool, appropriate wages or other metrics to contact PCDC, and they will help track down the data needed.

“There’s a range of data sources available to build these trend reports,”Tillery said. “I would just encourage anyone who has wondered about a particular demographic or other information, they should just ask for it.”

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