In our last column, we discussed the current global economic recession and its impact on our economy, communities and workforce. We also discussed the bad news/good news scenarios and challenges to our local workforce development system. Over the last two columns, we have also discussed the short- and long-term challenges for our workforce.

This array of challenges portrays the bipolar nature of workforce development. When the economy is good, employers are looking to fill positions and attract and retain the best available talent. When the economy is contracting, employers are downsizing, and workers are impacted by job losses. This is the scenario that is playing out all over our country, as well as in central Illinois.

During a recession, the workforce pool expands, and displaced workers are faced with the challenges of transitioning to new employment. Other segments of the workforce will face challenges during this period as well, including young people transitioning from school to the workplace for the first time, and transitional workers who may be re-entering the workforce after being out of work for an extended period of time. Dislocated workers have some obvious challenges as they try to navigate this recession.

The first challenge is to deal with all of the psychological, emotional and financial aspects of losing one’s job. There are stages of shock, disbelief, anger, acceptance, and ultimately, action that everyone must work through. This underscores the importance of having essential services and professionals in our community that can help individuals and their families progress through these stages. Workforce development systems have matured over the last decade to include multiple partners that offer these programs and services.

Another challenge for dislocated workers will be the financial impact of losing one’s income. This not only affects individuals, but also their families, communities and local governments. We have all witnessed the devastating impact of housing foreclosures. Financial counseling and planning during this time is a critical service for many dislocated workers.

As dislocated workers progress through their various impact stages, they ultimately arrive at the action stage. At this point, they can begin to access an array of workforce programs and services for which they may be eligible, including unemployment benefits, career transition services, and education and training assistance. Education and training during a time of recession is actually a smart strategy and a good investment.

As our economy continues to evolve, jobs are eliminated and created. Some economic sectors are forever changed, others expand, and new sectors are created. Taking advantage of retraining and education opportunities helps dislocated workers transition to these new growth sectors. Training time can also be coordinated with the receipt of unemployment benefits; however, the challenge for many dislocated workers is often the need for immediate re-employment and the critical benefits of a full-time job. This is often the trade-off and choice many individuals and families have to make.

In future issues, we will continue to explore the challenges of dislocated workers and other segments of our workforce during this economic downturn. iBi