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“Most of the places you would want to locate a plant anywhere in the county are facing the same type of situation we are. It’s kind of a perfect storm.”
— Gary Farlow

There was a time when people could not find jobs.

Now, there are not enough people to fill the available positions.

That is where the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce’s new initiative comes into play.

That was the subject presented to the Rotary Club of Cleveland Tuesday as Chamber President and CEO Gary Farlow discussed, “Your Skills. Your Future.”

“One of the things we are dealing with right now is Cleveland had the highest percentage job growth of any metro area in the United States in 2016,” Farlow said. “That means we are growing in a good way and have weathered the recession pretty well compared with most places around the country. We’re proud of that. There have been a lot of hard working people in different sectors that have made that possible.”

Farlow said statistics show in 1997, there was a local labor force of 42,000 and 2,100 people unemployed.

“Ten years later, we had 47,000 in the labor force and 1,900 unemployed,” he said. “This year in May, we have a labor force of 50,690. The unemployed went to 1,960. The unemployment rate was 2.8 percent. We have dropped below 3 percent. Most consider full employment to be around 4 or 5 percent.”

Farlow said there are now many businesses that are hanging out the “Help Wanted” signs.

“We have a lot of companies struggling to find a workforce, and a lot of that has to do with the growth of the manufacturing sector here which stimulated growth in all of the other sectors,” he said. “It’s good news our unemployment rate is so low. The bad news is it’s getting harder for our companies to find workers.”

Farlow also said statewide there were more than 90,000 unemployed while online job advertisements were almost double that number.

“Workforce is getting to be a very serious issue across the state and across the country,” he said. “Most of the places you would want to locate a plant anywhere in the county are facing the same type of situation we are. It’s kind of a perfect storm.”

Farlow said the Chamber’s Education Committee began brainstorming, and took a look at what kind of jobs were out there and how to get people to pursue those positions.

“About 75 percent of the jobs in the future will not require a four-year degree,” he said. “This is not an anti-four-year college thing. We need people to go to four-year colleges. But, there are a number of career options for those who may not want to pursue that path right now.”

He said the decision was made to get more people aware of technical careers, which led to the birth of the new initiative.

That led to the development of, “Your Skills. Your Future.”

“You can come out with a two-year degree or certificate and not have a load of student debt,” Farlow said.

“This is a three-year initiative to create a better qualified workforce,” Farlow said.

The website provides job opportunities as well as a quiz to help determine a good career match.

“We are trying to get students in high school, and trying to change parents’ perceptions about college,” he said. “A community college is a college. A TCAP is a college. Four-year colleges are important. We have always been told to get a four-year degree and we all know with a four-year degree your odds of making a better living and your lifespan are better.”

He said there are also programs for career seekers, those adults who might want to acquire more skills in order to improve their job status.

More information on the program is available by viewing the website at