By Charles Warner
UNION COUNTY — There are more job openings in Union County that need to be filled than there are people to fill them.
According to the SC Department of Employment & Workforce, the unemployment rate in Union County in September of this year was 2.3 percent, down from more than 4 percent in January.
That’s a very low unemployment rate and one that could potentially go even lower if the economy continues growing like it has in recent years.
Good news, isn’t it?
The problem with this, however, is that there are already more jobs in Union County than there are people here that could be hired to do them.
According to the SC Department of Employment & Workforce and The Conference Board’s Help Wanted OnLine® data series, as of September of this year there were 269 people in Union County who were unemployed, but 274 job openings.
In other words, there are five more job openings in Union County than there are people here to fill them.
(Just in case your wondering, in September there were 11,612 employed in Union County.)
How do you fill all those jobs and, if the economy continues to grow, any new ones that are created?
The answer to that problem is what Niki Burgess, Talent Development Specialist, ResCare, SC Works Greater Upstate, describes as “non-traditional and previously untapped workforces” that she says can provide business and industry with the kind of dedicated, hard-working employees they need.
“With the economy the way it is, most of the traditional workforce has been tapped to the point of full employment,” Burgess said Monday. “Business and industry are producing jobs that need to be filled but the traditional source is unavailable.
“What they are looking at now are non-traditional and previously untapped workforces,” she said. “We have such a workforce here in Union County through Union Services.”
Union Services provides educational, training, and job services to physically and cognitively challenged individuals who, through the agency. Through Union Services, those individuals work providing custodial services to such places as the City of Union Municipal Building and Burgess said that in doing so, they demonstrate a work ethic that would enable them to successfully fill jobs in the private sector.
“We just feel there is so much value in hiring employees with disability,” Burgess said. “They want to work and because of that they will show up for work every day.”
If you think hiring the physically or cognitively disabled is a radical step for a business or industry consider the following statisics from able — sc.org:
• 29 percent of Americans ages 16-64 with disabilities are in the workforce
• 9.2 percent with disabilities are unemployed
• 8.3 percent with disabilities are unemployed and hold a Bachelor’s Degree
• 4.5 percent without disabilities are unemployed
Furthermore, the website states that “a DuPont study that involved 2,745 employees found that 92% of employees with disabilities rated average or better in job performance, safety and attendance compare to 90% of those without disabilities.”
That’s sounds like a pretty good reason to hire employees even if they are disabled, but there are even more benefits according to Able SC. Those benefits are:
• Increase motivation — more creative ways to adapt
• Improve shareholder value — report bottom line benefits that show ROI (Return on Investment)
• Improve productivity
The website also lists the companies that have seen the advantages of hiring the disabled. They are:
• Old Navy
In other words, SC Works Greater Upstate and Union Services aren’t the only ones who see the value in hiring the disabled.
SC Works Greater Upstate is taking steps to help the disabled individuals at Union Services get hired by the private sector.
“Currently, they are employed at Union Services, but it is our hope that through a series of workshops we are conducting they will be able gain employment with other employers,” Burgess said. “Our workshops deal with subjects such as communicating in the workplace, problem solving, interview skills, soft skills, resume, and others.”
Burgess said the workshops on most of the different subjects covered are offered twice a month, but that the resume workshops are offered every Tuesday. All the workshops are held at the Union County Carnegie Library.
Nor are the Union Services clients the only ones who will be benefitting from the workshops program.
“Twenty percent of the students in the Union County School District are special needs ranging from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) to cerebal palsy,” Burgess said. “We’re going to start offering some workshops to the high school students.”
Burgess said the the goal of the workshops is to help those with disabilities successfully enter the private sector workforce in Union County and help business and industry fill the jobs they are creating. She said it will not only help fill those jobs and boost the local economy in the process but also benefit those disabled individuals who will have the opporunity to improve their lives.
“They need more opportunities for meaningful work which increases their quality of life,” Burgess said.”That is what their families want for them and that is what we’re trying to help them get.”
For more information about the workshops call 864-427-4119, Ext. 6.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.