CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Groundbreaking ceremonies have become a common sight across West Virginia.
In the last 18 months, there have been at least a dozen major announcements about new companies coming to the Mountain State. It’s estimated they could bring upwards of 10,000 construction and permanent jobs.
But West Virginia has the lowest adult workforce participation in the nation, so who will take all these jobs?
“The Nucors [NUCOR Steel] of the world, or Pure Watercraft, or on and on and on, you know all those folks and everything? They would not be making the level of investment in West Virginia if they did not believe that the workers would come. The workers will come,” said Gov. Jim Justice (R) West Virginia.
And, just like how the song “Country Roads” was used to lure tourists to West Virginia, there is a new TV ad campaign touting jobs.
“Workforce West Virginia is here to help you take the next step towards more fulfilling employment,” says the TV ad.
Other ads don’t target workers but instead, appeal to employers.
“Are you ready to hire? As a business owner, finding qualified employees can be a struggle,” says another TV ad.
West Virginia is trying to fix an internal problem. Across the nation, only 3% of workers are employed in states where they do not live. But in West Virginia, 13% of state residents are employed in another state. Much of the campaign is a homecoming call.
“So, one of the goals we’re trying to do is to reincorporate those folks who are working across the border, to take a look at jobs opportunities here in West Virginia,” said Scott Adkins, of WorkForce West Virginia
There are billboards and newspaper and radio ads, but then there is also a more personal touch. The newest WorkForce West Virginia office is in an old Kanawha City department store. Job seekers can come and meet counselors face-to-face, or do job searches on computers. School teacher Eric Watkins just moved here from New York and found the new WorkForce office a godsend.
“Well, when I walked in the door it was very embracing. You know, informative, resourceful, lots of help. Ongoing communication, very supportive,” said Eric Watkins, who wants an early childhood education teaching job. West Virginia has more than 1,000 teacher vacancies.
“Well, I’m moving down here because there is more of an opportunity. And I’m looking for the field of education,” said aspiring teacher Watkins.
One place to get quick, easy information is at the agency’s recently revamped website by clicking here.
On the first Wednesday of every month, WorkForce is holding an online job fair where job seekers and prospective employers can meet up. Even I did a mock interview.
“I have good communication skills. Good speaking and writing skills,” I said in my practice interview.
So, between the website and job fairs, the process is easy.
“You can look for a job from the comfort of your own home. You don’t have to take time to drive there. You can meet employers. Employers can meet you. You can see if it’s a good fit,” said Scott Adkins, of WorkForce West Virginia.
And they aren’t just trying to match jobs to skills. They are even profiling people in ads on their love of the outdoors, such as whitewater rafting and skiing, activities that attract people to the Mountain State.
“It’s a huge part of what we have to offer here in West Virginia. You know the lifestyle of living in West Virginia is attractive to the majority of people in this country,” said Secretary James Bailey, of the WV Department of Commerce.
With all of these targeted efforts, state leaders believe they will fill those estimated 10,000 jobs.
“Jobs are one area where it’s proven, ‘If you build it, they will come,'” said Commerce Secretary Bailey.
And the search goes everywhere. They are actively recruiting those coming out of corrections, and those succeeding in substance abuse recovery. They are also targeting military veterans who want jobs. For more information, you can call WorkForce West Virginia at 1-800-252-JOBS.