Residents do their part to help parish attract businesses

April 09, 2008 at 4:31 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Many St. Charles Parish residents may have been surprised when they were stopped after coming out of local businesses last weekend and asked questions about their work history and current skills.

However, the answers to those questions are all part of a comprehensive study by the River Region Economic Development Initiative that hopes to spearhead economic growth in the region. The purpose of the residential survey is to help the group understand the characteristics of the current and future workforce in order to attract big businesses to the area.

Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said the effort is essential to his economic development vision.

"The data collected will be used to ensure that we are satisfying the workforce development needs of our residents and our employers," he said.

The firm in charge of the study, Younger & Associates, hoped to question 6,000 residents about their current jobs, their job skills and whether or not they plan to retire soon. Retailers who participated in the survey provided permission to RREDI to conduct the surveys outside of their establishments. The survey took two minutes to complete and all responses were confidential and will be reported in aggregate.

The survey will help gauge the "underemployment" market in the tri-parish region.

Underemployment is a term used to describe workers that are overqualified for their current jobs. If the parish has a high underemployment rating, that means that if a new business were to come into the area, those workers might be able to find jobs better suited to their high level of skills.

"Area residents might not know they have the skills needed to work in certain businesses in the region," Linda Prudhomme, the director of the Port of South Louisiana Business Development, said. "On the other side, the survey results might indicate that there is a pool of talented workers that were previously unidentified in the region."

This survey is part of a two part effort that will analyze the local labor market to give companies interested in coming into the area an idea of what that market could support.

The first part was an employer survey that provided a snapshot of the labor-related issues, assets important to area businesses. The employer survey asked employer's questions about their ability to find qualified labor, the current quality of the labor force and how many openings the employer anticipates in the future.

The results of both surveys will be combined and released sometime in the next two months.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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