Work Force Shortage Only Half Of Economic Circle

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There is a cog missing in our economy machine.

That was the conclusion of a study of our local work force recently released by the Payson Regional Economic Development Council.

Every page of the report, titled "The Workforce of Payson, Arizona 2007 Analysis," was filled with discouraging information.

Our work force is aging. The median age for potential workers in Payson is 50.5. Many of those people still considered to be potentially productive members of the work force are retired and do not want to go back to work.

Also, according to the study, of those who are willing to work, many lack the education for skilled labor.

The report offered several solutions to bolster our small and untrained work force, many of which involved programs to be developed by employers, the high school and community college.

We agree that those who are willing to learn, who want to stay in Payson, should be afforded that opportunity by those institutions that have the ability to provide training. Already, the Payson Police Department, the Mogollon Health Alliance and Gila Community College are taking these steps to locally train nurses, firefighters and law enforcement.

Training is the first step.

But if you continue to read the study, you will see that there is another side to the circle.

On one side, employers complain that there is an unskilled work force. (Approximately 26 percent of the work force has a college degree.)

On the other side, workers complain that there are many jobs, but few viable career opportunities, available in Payson. According to the report, 48 percent of workers earn an annual salary of $29,120 or less. Approximately one in three workers receive no benefits from their employment.

The two problems -- unskilled workers and few career opportunities for skilled workers -- create an unending cycle.

New industry, of the kind that offers salaries with benefits, will not move to a town that does not have the available work force.

However, simply training our work force and hoping industry will follow is a dead end. We will end up training our workers and watching as they pack up and leave for better opportunity in the Valley or elsewhere.

If we want Payson to thrive economically, we need to create a multi-prong solution.

Businesses and educational institutions should partner for the creation of apprenticeships, certifications and other necessary training.

And our Town government should examine the ways it can attract new businesses through development of a commercial zone on Airport Road and through tax incentives for clean industry. We need to work toward the improvement of our high-speed Internet access.

Telecommunications is critical to economic survival for all of our area.

If educational community, local employers and town government work together, steered by the findings of groups like the Payson Regional Economic Development Center, we can fashion the missing cogs in our economic machine and move forward into a prosperous future.

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