The local job market for 2023 appears to be looking for job seekers looking to change careers, re-enter the workforce, and those entering the workforce for the first time.
Bucks and Montgomery county workforce development department officials said they have an ‘optimistic’ outlook for the year ahead as unemployment rates have fallen to pre-pandemic levels this month, employers from “all industries” looking to hire.
Unemployment rates peaked in early 2020, after the coronavirus first hit the Commonwealth, at 15.1% for the Bucks and 13.7% in Montgomery County.
Dianna Kralle, deputy director of the Bucks County Department of Labor and Economic Development, said there is a strong demand for workers in all fields.
“We hear a lot of employers say, ‘We need people and we need them now, and we need some awareness of our industry,’ but we hear it from all industries,” Kralle said. .
Kralle added that “emergency personnel” jobs, such as police and other emergency workers, are in high demand, as are those in the Department of Corrections with a “significant” number of difficult-to-fill openings.
Billie Barnes, executive director of the county’s workforce department, added that health care is another major Bucks industry struggling to rebuild after the pandemic.
“It was (an industry) that was hit hard, as you can imagine, when the pandemic hit. Specifically, nursing home jobs, home care aides (certified care aides)…it’s just been really hard for them to bounce back and fill those positions,” Barnes said.
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A county economic summary report released in the last quarter of 2022 estimates that the health care industry employed more people, more than 50,000 workers, than any other industry.
State Labor and Industry listed Doylestown Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center in Middletown and the nonprofit Woods Services Health Network, also in Middletown, among some of Bucks’ largest employers.
With demand for employees high, Barnes said the county is taking steps to build on resources such as its participation in the state CareerLink program to help fill these positions in 2023.
CareerLink is a county-administered initiative launched in 2012 by the Department of Labor and Industry with employment resources and training programs for both sides of the labor market.
The Bucks County CareerLink main office, which moved in August to 4800 E. Street Road Suite 50, Bensalem, has seen a drop in visitors since the pandemic.
“Before the pandemic, foot traffic in CareerLink was high…21,000 people a year,” Barnes said. “Last time I checked, maybe three months ago, we were still down about 50%.”
Barnes said there could be a number of reasons for the drop in traffic, but “if people don’t come to us, we will come to them.”
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The department has partnered with Bucks County Community College to offer CareerLink services to students, and Barnes said the department is considering a CareerLink mobile station.
Jennifer Butler, assistant director of workforce development for the Montgomery County Department of Commerce, said one of her county’s main focus right now is “the next generation” of workers.
The county was already experiencing an aging workforce before the pandemic, but the public health crisis likely helped hasten the departure of aging workers.
“If we were talking about this in 2019, we would have a similar conversation but with a little less urgency,” said Butler, who is also executive director of the county’s workforce development council, MontcoWorks.
In July 2021, as part of a four-year local plan, MontCoWorks highlighted the need to encourage apprenticeship through employers but also “pre-apprenticeship” job training programs.
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“MontcoWorks provides workforce training and education in high priority occupations in Montgomery County and surrounding areas. Short-term and long-term training offering industry-recognized credentials are available and delivered through partnerships with the county’s five vocational and technical schools, Montgomery County Community College, colleges, universities and training institutions located in and around Montgomery County,” the report notes said.
High priority occupations in Montgomery County in 2022 cover more than 120 positions, including software developers, social workers and construction trades.
To help young workers navigate these areas, MontCoWorks has released its first The jobs of tomorrow report this year.
The 32-page report includes skill requirements and salary ranges for market researchers and analysts, pharmacy technicians, electricians and a host of other industries.
Butler added that Montgomery and Bucks counties are updating their local employment plans, along with four other southeastern Pennsylvania counties, “to incorporate some of the progress we’ve made and continue planning for post-pandemic recovery”.
As in Bucks County, Butler recommends job seekers stop by the Montgomery County CareerLink office at the County Social Services Center at 1430 DeKalb St. in Norristown, or online at www.montcopa.org.
Butler also said the counties using CareerLink are interconnected, so a resident of either county could visit neighboring county offices for assistance if an office is closer than one. other.
The Bucks County CareerLink website can be found under the Workforce and Economic Development webpage on www.buckscounty.gov.