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Working towards change

A changing workforce

• In 1977, 38 percent of the workforce was more than 40-years-old. In 2006, 56 percent of workers were older than 40.

• In 1977, 66 percent of couples both worked. In 2006, that percent grew to 78 percent.

• In 2006, 54 percent of employees were less than fully satisfied with their jobs and 38 percent were somewhat or very likely to try to find a new job in the coming year.

Source: National Study of the Changing Workforce.

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Workforce 2020 initiative to help address the changing face of workplace

By Jeff Kiger

jkiger@postbulletin.com

A quick look is all it takes to realize that the workforce of today is much different than the employees of even a decade ago.

And with the Baby Boomer generation rolling toward retirement along with major technology and culture changes re-shaping the economic landscape, more dramatic shifts are on the way.

How will employers and workers across the U.S. and in Rochester adjust to the change?

"It is going to take education, flexibility and diversity to do that," says new Rochester Area Chamber President Audrey Groteboer of the Post-Bulletin. "The face of Rochester is changing. We have to get ready for the change."

In January, the chamber will launch its Workforce 2020 initiative to work toward that end.

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To aid the process, the chamber has been awarded a grant from the national Families and Work Institute. Rochester is one of 30 communities across the U.S. participating in the program.

Part of that program is an online tool which will connect businesses, schools and communities that are struggling with the same issues.

That will allow Rochester to join a national conversation to discuss how to best prepare employers and future employees for the changes that are coming. By comparing notes and working on solutions together, the hope is to create a series of "best practices."

One piece of this large issue is how employers will respond to the changing needs of their workers. The answer is flexibility.

One Rochester company, Custom Alarm, is already known for using flexibility in scheduling to help its workers balance home and career.

Custom Alarm workers are allowed to balance scheduling of work in the field to coincide with personal needs like picking up children from school.

The company plans to participate in the Workforce 202 project to learn to expand those practices, says Melissa Brinkman, Custom Alarm’s director of customer services.

Beside flexibility, increased efficiency in the educational system is needed to make sure every student is prepared to participate in an increasingly demanding work environment, says Groteboer.

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"We have to help get them prepared," she said. "We can’t afford to let anyone slip through the cracks."

Toward that end, the leaders of the Rochester School system will be working alongside the business community on this project, she says.

One proposed idea is to create a leadership program for high school students similar to one the chamber uses to encourage leadership within the business community.

It will take a concerted effort from businesses, schools, local government and workers to successfully prepare for the changes coming, Groteboer says.

"It is time to get to work and figure this out," she said.

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