Mark Butler
 GA Labor Commissioner Mark Butler

Ga. Labor Commissioner Butler: ‘state employment setting records’

By Tommy Culkin

The Clayton Tribune

Georgia’s employment numbers have been flourishing of late. That is the message Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler delivered to the Clayton Rotary Club last week.

In fact, Butler said, employment numbers haven’t just been good — they’ve been record-setting.

“In 2016 and 2017, we added more people to our work force in those two years than in the prior seven years combined,” Butler said. “In 2017, we set records for most people in our workforce, the most jobs we’ve ever had in the state of Georgia and we also set the record for the most people employed in the state of Georgia.”

And the positive trends have continued into the current year too, Butler said. During the week of April 16-22, Georgia had the fewest unemployment claims filed since the 1960s.

Butler attributes the strong numbers to a healthy relationship between Georgia’s private and public sectors, and referenced job-finding programs the GDOL provides in several communities each year.

Despite the strong numbers, Butler said he is still hard at work. The biggest issue he is trying to tackle is the lack of people to fill the many open jobs in Georgia, he said.

Butler said he is also working to help prepare the younger generation to enter the workforce. The biggest hindrance for young people entering the workforce, according to Butler, is a lack of soft skills, or personal skills and professionalism.

“I like to challenge employers to tell me an example of when they had to fire someone for something other than a soft skills reason, and they can almost never come up with one,” Butler said.

To help improve people’s soft skills, Butler implemented the GeorgiaBEST program in several high schools throughout the state. The program grew and expanded to several more high schools, and eventually a middle school program was started too.

Soft skills taught through GeorgiaBEST include punctuality, teamwork, communication skills, positive attitude and others.

Butler was asked how best to attract new employers into a region and his answer was quick.

“My number one piece of advice is to partner with your school systems,” Butler replied. “In the schools, there are a lot of things about behavior and soft skills that aren’t as emphasized as they used to be, and it can really affect you. As a general statement, I’d say to any community that if your business community and your school system are not linked at the hip, you’re behind the curve.”

In March, the Georgia Mountains region, which includes Rabun County, saw an increase in employed residents of approximately 1,000 people, and sits at 336,665 at the end of March.

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