Work And Business Opportunities Abound In The River Parishes
The River Region is poised to thrive again in the post-pandemic marketplace.
Considering many of us have been parched for good news over the past year, Tommy Scott’s assessment of the local job market is quite refreshing.
“If someone would like to return to work right now in the River Parishes, there’s a great chance they can take advantage of a lucrative career opportunity,” says Scott, the Executive Director of the River Parishes Business and Career Solutions Center. “Employers are ready to hire right now.”
While River Region employers—especially small businesses, restaurants and retail storefronts—have felt some of the same economic effects as other parts of the country, as a whole, the industries within the Port District have faired decently during the pandemic and are primed to exceed pre-March 2020 levels of production and staffing. According to state unemployment statistics for January 2021, St. Charles Parish’s 6.9 percent unemployment rate was below the state average of 7.6 and well below neighboring parishes Jefferson and Orleans.
“Business is actually thriving in the River Region. It really is,” Scott says. “Yes, things obviously did slow down, but our proximity to the River is one of our greatest resources in providing workforce opportunities because the needs for supplies and goods and transporting those supplies and goods never goes away—even with everything going on in the past year.”
In fact, the impact of the region’s six primary industry sectors—petrochemical and related manufacturing; marine and related transportation; metals manufacturing; food processing; construction, and utilities—accounts for 80 percent of all employment and more than 90 percent of all earnings in the region. And with annual productivity rates of $357 per production man-hour and $774,270 per production worker, the River Region exceeds the average manufacturing worker productivity rates for all metro areas by more than three times
“With the uptick of those receiving vaccines, the easing of COVID restrictions, and the world fully reopening, we’ve had those small businesses come back to work and they’re looking for viable candidates—trained and skilled individuals—to fill those positions,” Scott says.
Local employers have identified the local labor force as a considerable strength of the River Region, offering an abundant supply of high-skilled, productive and committed workers. Over half the River Region’s population is of workforce age, and average hourly wages in the River Region are competitive to those in Gulfport-Biloxi, Houston, Lake Charles and Mobile.
Within the past four to six weeks, Scott says his office has handled a huge uptick in phone calls and emails from employers looking to immediately fill positions—permanent positions that most would consider careers, he emphasizes. In order to meet the needs of employees and employers, the River Parishes Business and Career Solutions Center offers a variety of services. For those seeking work, or looking to advance in a chosen profession, Scott and his team hold in-house recruitment events, offer resume and cover letter assistance, and guide applicants through vocational, 2-year and 4-year educational opportunities or employer-based training programs.
For job creators, the Career and Solutions Center assists the search for the right candidate several different ways: referring appropriate and qualified candidates, pre-screening job seekers, offering reimbursements for employer-based training programs and incumbent worker training programs, and customizing a company’s recruitment strategy, including organizing recruitment events.
“Our overall goal is to cultivate the skills and best-utilize our local workforce,” Scott says, “and to put employees and employers in the best position possible to take advantage of the expertise and the knowledge our residents in the River Region possess.”