By Dave DeWitte
CEDAR RAPIDS — While most of the nation struggles with high unemployment, the Corridor will soon begin a $750,000, two-year marketing campaign to recruit and retain workers.
The workforce recruitment campaign by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance was announced at the group’s annual meeting Jan. 28 by alliance CEO Dee Baird, citing “pressure points” in the region’s labor force.
“We know where the biggest pressure points are, and that’s where we’ll focus,” Ms. Baird said in an interview with the Corridor Business Journal.
Pressure-point occupations range from highly-skilled occupations, such as software engineers and developers to customer service positions and entry-level assembly positions, according to Kim Johnson, vice president of continuing education and training services at Kirkwood Community College.
In some occupations, such as assemblers, the issue is less of a shortage of applicants and more of a shortage of work-ready applicants with qualifications such as consistent job histories and attendance records, according to Ms. Johnson.
In other occupations, however, there is “some criticality” to the limited applicant pool in the region. Those positions include CNC machine operators in advanced manufacturing.
The number of jobs in the region is now back to pre-recession levels, the alliance told members and stakeholders at its annual meeting, and some 1,374 new jobs were attracted to interstate commerce businesses in 2013 with the group’s assistance.
Unemployment in the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area stood at 4.6 percent in December on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, according to Iowa Workforce Development. That was in line with the statewide average, and well beneath the United States unemployment rate of 6.7 percent for the month.
The campaign will target jobseekers in Midwestern markets and specific markets around the United States with a message to view opportunities on Corridorcareers.com, a regional job site for the Corridor operated by Cedar Rapids-based Gazette Communications.
ME&V Advertising + Consulting, a Cedar Falls-based company with operations in Cedar Rapids, will manage the campaign for the alliance, Ms. Baird said.
For more information on the initiative, visit http://jobrush.corridorcareers.com/job-rush.
The website lists job postings, encourages employers to post a job and also invites membership in the alliance. On Jan. 28, it listed 484 jobs. If the website is any indication, the campaign may have a whimsical touch.
“Looking for a job where there aren’t any is like trying to fight a zombie with toast,” the website states. “Don’t fight a zombie with toast. Join the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Job Rush.”
Several different strategies have been used to identify pressure point positions in the workforce, according to Ms. Johnson.
The skills gaps are identified through labor force data from the state, from a skills assessment study performed in the region every four or five years and from advisory groups and consortiums that advise Kirkwood Community College on training and curricula.
The alliance also announced a new community pride campaign, “Building Swagger.” The campaign will encourage residents to express their pride in the region to others who might consider relocating or investing in the Corridor.
Ms. Baird introduced the topic with a top 10 list of reasons to be proud of the Corridor, ranging from its association with the late regional artist Grant Wood, whose “American Gothic” has been ranked the world’s most widely-recognized painting, to having the world’s largest cereal factory (Quaker Oats) and the world’s largest ethanol plant (ADM).
The $250,000 campaign will air commercials in the local market focusing on everyday people who contribute to the creative economy.
“Folks, the Iowa humility is not helping us,” Ms. Baird said. “We’ve got to own that this is a great place.”