Wayne Post
  • On the job hunt in Ontario County

  • For some job-seekers, securing employment in the local market may be a matter of adjusting expectations and tailoring their training toward thriving career fields.

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  • It has been more than a decade since the last time Graham Ross searched for a job, and this time around, he said, the rules are different.
    After the Canandaigua resident was employed for about 15 years as a business development manager, his position was eliminated last October when his company reorganized, and he has been seeking another job ever since.
    “It’s different this time,” Ross said. “The last time I looked for work was 15 years ago. Now, the employers have all the power. They’re looking for very specific things. It’s frustrating.”
    Ross, whose background is in marketing and product development, said he has found employers’ expectations to be sky-high.
    “Because unemployment is so high and so many people are out of work, employers are in the driver’s seat,” he said. “They set the requirements, and they’re very stringent.”
    “A skills gap”
    The latest unemployment rate for Ontario County, released by the New York State Department of Labor, was 7.5 percent in December 2012 — the same as in December the previous year.
    This compares to 8 percent for the Rochester area and 8.2 percent for the state in December 2012.
    Despite the unemployment rate, there is good news for job-seekers, said Brian Young, director of Finger Lakes Works/Ontario County Workforce Development.
    “There is still a lot of hiring going on, a lot of entry-level manufacturing,” he said. “Health care continues to have a lot of job openings. ... Those are probably the two (career fields) that, for the last few years during the recession, have continued to have job openings.”
    The issue, Young said, is that there aren’t enough qualified applicants to fill job openings in fields that are in need of workers.
    “Some businesses have a lack of candidates applying who have the skills necessary,” he said. “There is a skills gap.”
    One program at Finger Lakes Community College that is seeking to fill the gap in a growing industry is its viticulture and wine technology program. Offering an associate of applied science degree, the program began in the fall of 2009 with the help of industry representatives to train workers in the region’s growing viticulture and wine industry, said Paul Brock, instructor of viticulture and wine technology and the program’s coordinator.
    “Over the past several years, the economy hasn’t been doing very well,” he said. “The local viticulture and wine industry has expanded. ... What happened is that the wineries tried to provide more wine to meet the growing demand, and they needed more workers.”
    Adjusting the job search
    Young said that job-seekers who are struggling to find employment might need to boost their skills base. Finger Lakes Works offers funds for unemployed individuals to go back to school, as well as incentives for employers to train workers on the job. It also provides training at its five career centers in such skills as resume-writing, job interviews, career exploration and computer skills.
    Page 2 of 3 - “If an individual wants to take the time and learn new skills, maybe change their career a bit ... there are jobs out there,” Young said.
    During his recent job search, Ross said he discovered that there’s a lot to learn that wasn’t necessary years ago. For example, he said, many employers now require that applications be submitted electronically, and, rather than reviewing each application, they search for certain keywords in applications to narrow them down.
    In the current job market, he said, it is a strategy employers can afford to have.
    “They can be very strict in their requirements and still get local applications,” he said.
    In order to compete with other applicants, Ross said he had to change his tactics. He is currently pursuing his project management professional accreditation, which will take about two months.
    “It’s something I don’t have right now that cuts me out of a certain percentage of jobs,” Ross said. “By getting the accreditation, my availability increases.”
    For some job-seekers, Young said, it is also a matter of adjusting their expectations.
    “Years ago, they’d say you’d have seven careers in your life,” he said. “Now they say 14 careers. It requires lifelong learning.”
    Working together
    A strength of FLCC’s viticulture and wine technology program, Brock said, is that it works closely with local industry representatives to teach students what they can expect in a career, as well as connect them with internships and job opportunities. The program requires two internships: one in a vineyard and another in a winery. At the end of the program, graduates have the skills needed to get a job in the industry, Brock said.
    “We really work hard to get students exposure to all parts of the industry,” he said. “Typically, there are more internship opportunities that we have interns to fill.”
    Robert Deignan, of Naples, completed the program in December 2011, a month after he was offered a position at Hazlitt’s Red Cat Cellars, where he is assistant winemaker.
    He said the program’s strong connections with the local industry have helped students receive jobs after they complete the program.
    “You meet people in the industry,” he said. “Everyone is willing to share (their knowledge).”
    Collaboration with FLCC is also a priority for Finger Lakes Casino & Racetrack in Farmington— one it is hoping to build upon in the future, said Julie Roloson, senior director of human resources. She began working with the college in September to provide culinary arts students with internships.
    There has been one internship so far, and Roloson said the goal is to have one or two interns each semester in the future, with a possibility for employment after completion.
    Page 3 of 3 - She said she hopes to continue to build on the relationship with the college, adding, “That’s our goal: to have a positive presence in the community, from an employment standpoint and in our relationship (with FLCC).”

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