The county has a shortage of young workers with the right skills for the current economic market, analyst Robert Clifford said.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — There is a skills gap between what county employers need and what the county's population has to offer.
That disparity is hampering the county's job growth, according to research analyst Robert Clifford.
While the rest of the state has started to add jobs after the Great Recession, the Berkshires has not, he told business leaders Thursday morning at a Berkshire Chamber of Commerce's Eggs & Issues breakfast at the Country Club of Pittsfield.
Clifford, of the New England Public Policy Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said the county needs to match its worker training with the job supply in order to gain economic stability.
He outlined a report on labor trends released this month. The study looked at data since 2000 that showed four clear trends in the county's economic picture: it has had a slower recovery from the recession; the workforce is aging, and the number of younger workers decreasing; college enrollment is declining; and a lower percentage of workers have a bachelor's degree or higher.
"It's the loss of these populations that are causing the demographic concerns," Clifford.
The majority of the work force is over the age of 45 and the younger generation is either moving away or not achieving the education they need for job demands. There is a significant shortage compared to state averages in those younger, higher-educated groups — with the loss of younger workers being double the state average.
However, the level of "middle-skilled" workers — those who have some college, associates degree or certifications - is on par with state levels.
The county is also losing population altogether while the rest of the state is "slowly growing."
"The Berkshire region has been losing population over the last decade. It is the only region to continuously lose population," Clifford said. "Massachusetts is a slow growing state but the Berkshires is actually losing population."
Yet, the demand for educated workers is still there, to which many of the business leaders later attested. But those employers cannot find the workers with the right skills. In fact, the county is a "net importer" of workers with more people commuting into the county than commuting out.
"The key here is that there are some pipeline issues," Clifford said.
What drives employment is social services and health care as well as leisure and hospitality. Nearly half of the manufacturing jobs have been lost over the last decade, which is the sector with the most lost, and health care and social assistance grew but only at half the rate of the rest of the state in recent years, according to the study.
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