BY LISSETH RUSSA
SPECIAL TO THE BEACON
As employers struggle with a shortage of skilled labor in industries like hospitality and transportation, a considerable number of workers are still trying to find their footing in the wake of the pandemic. The situation is improving, but at a snail’s pace. Over the past few months, overall unemployment has hovered around 5 percent.
Changes in technology and new job models have continually reconfigured the way we do business, creating a gap between the skills workers have and the skills companies need. To stay on top of the market, job seekers need opportunities to gain training and experience.
While terms like “workforce development” may sound daunting, they’re not so complex to put into practice. Learning how to use a new tool in Excel, practicing public speaking, and completing a new professional certification are all examples of how employees can strengthen their skills and their résumés on a daily basis.
One truck driver at Goodwill Industries of Central Florida was able to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to give him more career options and improve his earning potential by increasing the types of vehicles he was qualified to drive. But he didn’t do it alone — after driving-school lessons, he had plenty of support from colleagues who helped him get real-life practice. The driver got his CDL the first time he took the licensing exam.
That’s an example of how workplace learning is critical to addressing labor shortages in skilled industries, including trucking.
Prior to the pandemic, the American Trucking Associations reported that the U.S. was short 60,000 drivers. The pandemic only exacerbated the shortage by increasing demand for land transportation, causing a wave of early retirements, and making it harder for new drivers to access training and licensing. To overcome that gap, it’s essential to provide more opportunities to workers like that Goodwill driver.
Businesses and workers can both benefit from investing in professional development. According to a Gallup analysis, companies with a high level of engagement — including more opportunities to learn — tend to have 21-percent higher productivity, 22-percent higher profitability, and 25-percent lower turnover, even in high-attrition fields.
It’s tempting to set aside training when times are tight due to a busy schedule, a low budget or poor access to materials. But the reality is that investing in training is a cost-effective way to improve a company’s capabilities and resources, while creating a more committed workforce.
At Goodwill, our mission is building lives that work through active skill development in the workforce — not only for our own employees, but for anyone seeking work. Through our virtual Job Connection services, our training and career counseling programs, and our partnerships with local companies, we can create a pipeline of skilled workers who have the experience and training they need to succeed.
To connect directly with Goodwill and get started on a new employment journey, visit www.GoodwillCFL.org, email JobConnection@GoodwillCFL.org or call 407-235-1541.
— Lisseth Russa is director of workforce development for Goodwill Industries of Central Florida.