The most recent numbers show Delaware’s unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, down from 6.5 percent in November, marking the sixth consecutive decrease in the state.
Getting people back to work, however, remains an uphill battle, now more than ever.
“Before the end of the decade, 60 percent of our jobs will require training beyond high school. And yet, only 20 percent of our kids graduate high school ready for college or a career,” Markell said in his State of the State address this week. “Every Delawarean has something to contribute if given the chance.”
“Jobs have been eliminated mostly through technology,” said Interim Delaware State Chamber President Rich Heffron, who says training, particularly in the manufacturing sector, will give Delawareans their best chances at finding work.
Echoing that point, Delaware Senator Chris Coons said, “Manufacturing today is more productive than ever, in part because there’s more technology integrated into manufacturing. That means we have to do more than we have in the past to make sure the skills of those who are coming out of Delaware high schools, the skills of those who are working in small and medium manufacturers are better, are higher than they’ve ever been.”
Something Delaware Technical Community College is already working on. DTCC Executive Vice President Dr. Mark Brainard says manufacturers tell him they have jobs available, but can’t fill them.
“There’s a mismatch between the applicants that they’re getting and the skill set that they need,” Brainard said.
Because of that mismatch, Delaware Tech established the Innovation and Technology Center located near its Stanton campus. The ITC combines classroom learning with state-of-the-art lab space where students can get the hands-on training manufacturers are looking for.
“I believe we need to convey to young folks that manufacturing is not dark, dirty and dangerous, but it’s high-tech, it’s clean, it’s well-paying… Manufacturing is a great career path for them,” Brainard said.
“All across the country the average wage and benefits of manufacturing employees is higher, the average secondary impact on the rest of the community, in terms of service jobs and support, and its impact in the community is higher and over the long haul it’s the only way for us to sustain and grow the American middle class,” Coons said.
Delaware Tech maintains an ongoing partnership with the Delaware Manufacturers Association. Officials say it has also proposed to DMA the idea of providing paid internships to the college’s advanced manufacturing certificate graduates. Brainard says the internships will allow the grads to demonstrate their skills and receive additional training on the job while providing the companies with the highly skilled workers they need.