PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) -- Rhode Island has one of the worst unemployment rates in the country. So why do we have local companies with jobs they can't fill?
Frustrated employers know it as "the skills gap," a situation where our workforce simply isn't trained for the jobs that are out there. We wanted to find out what's being done to fix the problem.
Roger Guillemette is just one of many frustrated business owners in Rhode Island who can't find qualified employees for open positions right now.
"We've lost our skills," he says. "We have a skills gap."
Brandon Melton, the Senior Vice President of Lifespan, is experiencing a similar problem.
"I think it makes it more difficult for us as employers," says Melton of the skills gap, "to find the right individuals who have the skills that we're looking for."
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Although Rhode Island's unemployment rate is down for the fifth straight month, it's still sitting at 10.5 percent. That means nearly 60,000 people are out of work and cannot find a job.
But even when there are jobs, the job seekers may not be properly trained.
"I've got 75 employees," says Guillemette. "I'd like to have 85, but I can't find good, qualified people."
Guillemette started Guill Tool in 1962 with just $1,000 in equipment. Fifty years later, the West Warwick company has more than 400 customers around the world. The challenge: They're behind on deliveries and cannot take on more business because of the lack of training in the workforce.
"We can retrain the people out of work," added Guillemette. "But we have to start training our kids in kindergarten all the way up to high school."
Eyewitness News went to get answers. David Abbot is the acting commissioner of the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. He tells us that "about a third of projected jobs require something more than a high school diploma, but something less than a bachelor's degree. And that's really where Rhode Island needs to step up and fill the gap."
Brandon Melton, Senior Vice President for Lifespan and a member of the Governor's Workforce Board agrees. He believes a newly formed employers' advisory group could help, with a goal of "engaging them with the Rhode Island Department of Education, higher education, so that we've got the alignment going between what the employers need and what is produced by elementary, secondary and then higher education."
Guillemette says every company pays 0.2 percent out of their payroll to the state, which could be used to re-train the workforce. He believes that identifying the skills of each displaced worker and bringing back high-tech manufacturing training in public schools will help get the economy back on its feet.
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