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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 21, 2006

Solutions sought to labor shortage

By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer


What: Workforce Development Council forum

When: Today

Where: Dole Cannery Ballrooms

Time: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cost: $50 per person

On the Web: www.hawaiiatwork.org

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Even as Hawai'i employers face a severe labor shortage, they may be missing out on thousands of potential new hires, according to one workforce development expert.

People who grew up in Hawai'i but are now working on the Mainland, workers who recently took early retirement and stay-at-home parents looking to return to the job market represent a largely untapped market for new hires, said Gregg Yamanaka, chairman of the nonprofit Workforce Development Council,

"We don't think we are doing enough to recruit these people," said Yamanaka.

Yamanaka's organization is holding an all-day forum today at Dole Cannery on these and other issues related to increasing Hawai'i's pool of qualified workers.

The forum, which will include nearly 100 managers from local private employers, government agencies and educators, aims to develop strategies for recruiting and retaining employees through job training and other vocational programs.

Yamanaka said he agrees with economists that the tight labor market presents a major barrier for state growth. He also believes that the tight labor market is forcing some employers to consider the chronically unemployed to fill their job needs.

With the statewide unemployment rate hovering around 3 percent, including a national low of 2.8 percent in August, employers are looking to hire people who have not had jobs for years or have never been employed.

"Typically, those are all the people we have left for entry level positions," said Susan Doyle, president of the Aloha United Way and one of the moderators at today's forum.

"We need to get them into the workforce."

Reach Rick Daysog at rdaysog@honoluluadvertiser.com.