OWEGO — In its continued effort to bolster the Tioga County workforce and retain the county’s tax base, county officials have embarked on a two-phase workforce development study.

Results of the first phase were completed earlier this year and were recently made available.

“It supports a better understanding of the characteristics of the current labor force, the talent needs of local (employers), and it examines the link between businesses, educational institutions and other stakeholders to strengthen the creation of a highly skilled labor talent pool capable of meeting current and future labor demands,” said county Economic Development Director LeeAnn Tinney.

The first study phase focused on five key industries for the Tioga County economy: advanced manufacturing, health care services, warehousing and distribution, hospitality and professional services.

In terms of ranking those industries, manufacturing accounted for 13.6 percent; educational services, 13.6 percent; retail trade, 13.5 percent; and health care and social assistance, 13.1 percent.

The sectors which added more jobs within the county were food services, 514 employees; mining and oil/gas extraction, 175 employees; and real estate, rental and leasing, 171 employees.

The highest employing occupations are in the management, business, science and arts fields, which account for 35 percent of all employment.

Seventy-nine percent of all establishments within the county employ fewer than nine people.

The study found that the county’s population has decreased by 4.8 percent in the last 10 years, and that a third of the population are over 55 years of age, while 22 percent are under 18.

Additionally, it was noted that 8 percent of the county’s total talent supply has not graduated high school.

It was also discovered that, of the 33 businesses surveyed, 30 said they had experienced challenges in recruiting, hiring and retaining employees.

Among the most difficult positions to fill and retain are engineers, nurses and machine operators.

Regarding population shifts, the study found that just one of the county’s nine municipalities has seen an increase over the last seven years — Nichols, up 7 percent.

The remaining municipalities have seen the following drops in population: Barton, 4 percent; Berkshire, 15 percent; Candor, 4 percent; Newark Valley, 5 percent; Owego, 5 percent; Richford, 9 percent; Spencer, 4 percent; and Tioga, 3 percent.

The above data, along with over 50 pages of additional statistics, will be paired with the second phase of research in order to develop a comprehensive workforce development strategy.

At that point, area businesses, school districts and municipalities will be better equipped to partner together to collectively improve local economic standing, and provide students with more concrete pathways to solid local careers after graduation.

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