George Swift column: Getting back to work

George Swift

Virtually every business we know is seeking workers. Regardless of the business type, there is a shortage of folks who are ready to return to the workforce. At the end of this month, the extra $300 unemployment enhancement will end in Louisiana. This may urge many who have not been in the workforce lately to consider finding a job.

Some categories of jobs are being discontinued or curtailed due to technology and changes in business models. To help our residents find new skills, we are fortunate to have Sowela Technical Community College and McNeese State University in our region. There are many scholarships available. Under new legislation just passed in the recent state legislative session, starting next year, The M.J. Foster Promise Program will provide scholarships for adults, ages 21 and over, to retrain at our technical community colleges.

In order to get data on businesses and industry in our region, The Alliance is conducting a survey to determine the various issues affecting our employers.

The results are incomplete and will be presented at the conclusion of the survey. However, several early trends are emerging.

The No. 1 issue facing businesses is lack of staff. Many business owners believe the extra money paid to those on unemployment is the cause. There is a disturbing trend. Individuals either agree to an interview or are actually hired, then, they don’t show up. One business told us they had appointments for interviews with nine folks and only one person showed up. Another business told us that they hired a new employee to begin on a certain date and the would-be employee did not show up. Common courtesy is going out the window. Some folks don’t care about a career, but those who are serious about moving ahead have never had more opportunities than now.

Several respondents to the survey said their employees are still struggling to find good housing. Competent help is hard to find said another business owner. New employees quit after a day or two to draw unemployment. Insurance issues and insurance costs are still big issues. Supply chain and lack of inventory are hampering businesses getting into full operation and in getting the supplies needed to finish rebuilding. 

Another issue facing us is the emerging Delta variant of coronavirus. Our region is one known as an unvaccinated cluster. Medical officers say the new Delta strain is deadly for those not vaccinated and is more potent and contagious than COVID-19. Those who contracted COVID-19 are not immune from the Delta strain. Many businesses are now just opening and getting back into commerce. Should our area see a spike in hospitalizations and deaths we will be forced to go back to closures, and none of us want that. Many reasons are given for not getting vaccinated. Talking with your personal physician can help determine the best course for you and your family.

Many issues are facing us as we continue rebuilding and recovery from the natural disasters. This rise in the Delta variant can be prevented if we take appropriate measures. We’ve made too much progress and endured too many hardships to take a backward step. 

George Swift is president/CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. Contact him at 337-433-3632 or gswift@allianceswla.org.

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SWLA Economic Development Alliance President and CEO George Swift

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