Kuster, state leaders take aim at workforce issues
CONCORD, N.H. —
Educational and business leaders met Monday in Concord to discuss ways to deal with the problems caused by low unemployment.
Officials said low unemployment is a good problem to have, but it also exposes workforce issues. U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-New Hampshire, brought officials together to discuss strategies to attract, retain and train more workers in New Hampshire.
"It's so difficult right now," Kuster said. "The cost of child care is so high, the cost of education and the loans are so high, it's hard to go out and buy a house. because it's so expensive. I want to look at this in a holistic way."
Kuster said she's backing several measures on Capitol Hill that she believes will help. They include expanding Social Security to provide paid family leave, providing Pell grant bonuses to reduce debt for college students who finish a degree in four years and giving tax credits to small businesses that invest in worker training.
While those ideas are debated in Washington, state officials are working to find more of the employees that employers want.
"I have seen time and time again where we're talking to companies about why they're coming here, why they want to expand here, and it is always related to workforce," said Taylor Caswell, commissioner of business and economic affairs.
The workforce issue is one that is so large that it can be easy to lose track of the big picture impact on the economy, as well the implications for individual families, officials said. But they said the bottom line is that New Hampshire needs more qualified workers.
The state has a goal called "65x25." It's an attempt to ensure that 65 percent of the workforce has a postsecondary degree or some kind of credential by the year 2025.
"Without 65 percent of our folks having a credential, businesses are going to go to Wisconsin. They're going to go to Florida. They're going to go to Montana. They're going to go to a better place," said Steve Rothenberg of Concord Regional Technical Center.
Policymakers said they have to do something to keep up in a rapidly changing economy because the state's future depends on it.