Why NH Factories Are Struggling to Fill Jobs

Amanda Loder / StateImpact New Hampshire

GE Aviation Plant Manager Doug Folsom is struggling to fill jobs on the factory floor.

Nationally, there are about 600,000 unfilled factory jobs.  But despite high unemployment, many of these jobs are proving difficult for employers to fill.

That’s because American manufacturers are increasingly looking for workers with specialized skills. And those skills can take a long time for workers to learn.

Take GE Aviation in Hooksett, New Hampshire.  With 720 workers, it’s one of the largest employers in the state.  GE’s factory is super-advanced, making parts for commercial planes, military fighter jets, and Blackhawk helicopters.  But it’s not the intricately machined parts that stand out when you wander the factory floor.  Instead, it is a sea of gray hair.

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Q&A: Why There’s More To The “Skills Gap” Than A Worker Shortage

Amanda Loder / StateImpact new Hampshire

Advanced manufacturing work is often highly-skilled and detail-oriented

Ramping-up federal funding for highly skilled, computerized advanced manufacturing training at community colleges is a key part of President Obama’s jobs initiative.  In a recent budget proposal, he pushed for creating an $8 billion Community College to Career fund.  Among other things, it would increase training for advanced manufacturing.  That sits well with a number of large companies, who say there are up to 600,000 jobs available on factory floors right now, but not enough qualified workers to fill them.

New Hampshire’s trying to change that.  With the help of a $20 million federal grant, the state’s Community College System is working on creating an integrated curriculum by working with advanced manufacturers across the state.

In a story that aired on NHPR, I looked into this so-called “skills gap,” and why it’s a lot more complicated than a shortage of qualified workers.  Following that feature, I spoke with Morning Edition host Rick Ganley about why there’s some skepticism about taxpayers funding corporate training through community colleges. Continue Reading

Executive Council Mulls Massive Medicaid Contract / Flickr

The Executive Council has a huge Medicaid contract to ponder

The Executive Council is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a new Medicaid contract worth an estimated $2.2 billion–believed to be the largest contract in state history.

But signs from an Executive Council meeting Monday suggest that vote may be pushed back.  And the state may struggle to meet its July 1 deadline.

It’s a huge contract financially, handing over several billion dollars to three managed care companies to run the state’s Medicaid program.  And it’s huge for the some 140,000 New Hampshire residents who rely on Medicaid.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas says it’s a huge policy shift, too. “What we are doing is we are engaging these organizations to help us administer the program,” Toumpas said, “because they bring a set of perspectives, techniques that we do not have at our disposal.”

Here’s the state’s starting point:  They don’t want to do anything to compromise Medicaid services.  But they also want to save money.  How do you do both? Continue Reading

How State Budget Cuts Hit Nursing For Sick Kids

Dan Gorenstein / NHPR

The Fouts are among the New Hampshire families struggling with cuts to Medicaid hours

Over the last year, dozens of families have lost state subsidized nursing support to care for their sick children.  Some parents say the reductions have made it hard to juggle work and keep their kids healthy.

New Hampshire hired a private company, Schaller Anderson to manage these cases.

Frustrated parents accuse the company of making decisions based on money, not the health of their children.

There are about 150 families in the state of New Hampshire with children so ill most of them need medical care every day.  Many of them can’t walk or talk; some are fed through tubes, some have debilitating seizures.  Historically this state has provided nurses to help these families care for their kids. Continue Reading

Right To Work Redux Passes House

Ryan Szepan / Flickr

Once again, Right To Work legislation has passed the House

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has for the second time passed a so-called “Right To Work” bill. But the margin was well short of what would be needed to override Governor Lynch’s promised veto.

Barring unions from requiring non-members to pay for representation has been a priority for House Republican leaders. Last year Governor John Lynch vetoed a Right To Work bill, which Republicans failed to override.

Republican Marshall Quandt told colleagues this year’s version will fare no better.

“Every one of us is wasting valuable time and energy on this bill. Einstein once said the definition of insanity is to keep doin’ the same experiment and expect different results,” Quandt says.

The bill passed, but was forty votes shy of the margin needed to survive a veto.

Twenty-three states have enacted Right To Work laws. Indiana is the most recent–it took effect last month.

How Apps Are Keeping Ski Areas Honest

YoTuT / Flickr

Researchers say apps are keeping ski areas honest about snowfall

Spring weather is now starting to roll in, but just last week winter had its last hurrah. And when those big snow storms wallop the mountains, ski areas see dollar signs.

A pair of Dartmouth economists are researching the tendency of ski areas to exaggerate snowfall reports, especially on weekends, in hopes of luring more skiers to the slopes. But they found that interactive websites and smartphone apps are turning those ski areas into honest brokers.

Relying on the ski area for information about trail conditions is a bit like relying on the owner of a theater to review movies that he’s playing. In both instances there’s a pretty good incentive to make them sound a lot better than they are. Continue Reading

House Committee Gives All-Clear For Cancer Treatment Centers Of America And Other Specialty Clinics

401k / Flickr

The House Health and Human Services Committee has sent an amended bill on to the full House which would allow not just cancer specialty hospitals (like Cancer Treatment Centers of America) but all specialty hospitals to bypass the Certificate of Need process. Meanwhile, all other hospitals in the state would still have to go in front of the CON board to gain approval for new or expanded services.

Concord Republican Rep. Lynn Blakenbeker voted in favor of the bill.

“We as a state should be encouraging businesses all kinds to come into the state especially when it comes to specialty healthcare treatment we should be offering all options,” she says. Continue Reading

Federal Vs State Health Insurance Exchange–Does It Matter?

401K / Flickr

As part of the Affordable Care Act, every state must have a health insurance exchange in place by January 2014. An exchange is a clearinghouse of sorts where people and small business can go to buy insurance and also find out which tax rebates they may use to help them buy coverage.

“I’ve heard people compare it to Expedia or Travelocity,” says Lisa Kaplan Howe, policy director for NH Voices for Health. “You can do an apples to apples comparison of premiums and benefits and for the first time have all the information laid out in one place and be able to go to that place to purchase something to suit your needs.” Continue Reading

How Communities Are Reclaiming Vacant Malls

Dystopos / Flickr

Vacant and underused malls are a continuing problem for communities

Since the economic collapse, the commercial real estate market has been faced with a glut of vacant buildings.  And that chief icon of American consumerism–the shopping mall–hasn’t been spared.  But that’s not to say these massive markets can’t be reclaimed.  Recently, NHPR’s Word of Mouth host Virginia Prescott dished with a New York Times reporter about the rising trend of “repurposing” the American mall. Continue Reading

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