Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, speaks Tuesday about New Hampshire's work force challenges during a roundtable discussion at Rivier University. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)
NASHUA — Establishing a skilled work force and driving job creation are critical pieces to addressing New Hampshire’s work force challenges, experts in the field say.
“We have got to keep pace with the evolving labor market,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said during Tuesday’s Small Business Committee Hearing at Rivier University in Nashua.
A panel of business leaders gathered to discuss innovative approaches to attracting and retaining skilled workers, as well as ideas on how to keep the state’s businesses and workers competitive in a 21st-century global economy.
Val Zanchuk of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire emphasized the importance of the Community College System of New Hampshire’s 65 by 25 initiative — a goal to have 65 percent of working age New Hampshire adults obtain some type of post-secondary education by 2025.
“For New Hampshire, we are currently at about 51 percent of our work force having these skills,” said Zanchuk, who estimates that about 58 percent will be achieved by 2025.
In order to attain the necessary level of training needed to grow the economy and attract quality employees, about 50,000 more people need to reside here, according to Zanchuk, adding more enrollment is necessary in New Hampshire colleges and universities.
Retaining underemployed residents for higher skilled jobs is also a vital component that must be pursued, as well as attracting skilled workers from other states, he said.
“Active employer involvement is essential,” said Tamer Koheil, director of the New Hampshire Job Corps Center.
Internships should be encouraged to help with workforce training, as well as apprenticeship programs to assist small businesses and prepare young people for above entry-level jobs, said Koheil.
Students must be prepared for the work force with adequate social and life skills, added Koheil, explaining students should be discussing career goals at a young age.
At the W.S. Badger Co. in Gilsum, the company focuses on flexible work schedules with a babies-to-work program and primary and secondary care leave.
“Engagement is key in retaining a motivated work force,” said Emily Hall Warren, director of administration at W.S. Badger Co.