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Changing Market

Workers retrain to get back into work force

April 29, 2012

The Leader-Herald

Several years ago, Monica Armstrong was laid off and seeking employment.

Married with two children, she saw radiology technology as an opportunity to get her out of the job market and back into the work force.

Article Photos

Monica Armstrong, a radiology technologist at Nathan Littauer Hospital, works with a mammogram machine in the diagnostic imaging area at the hospital on Thursday. She pursued radiology technology to get back into the work force.

"At that time, it was now or never," said Armstrong, a radiology technologist at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville.

Since the New York State Labor Department declared the end of the recession in 2009, the state has recovered all the jobs it lost during the 2007-08 decline. Last month, the state's private-sector job count reached 7.4 million, an all-time high.

"What we have recouped now surpasses the total private- sector jobs lost during the state's recession in 2008 and 2009," said Bohdan M. Wynnyk, deputy director of the Division of Research and Statistics.

However, the local job market hasn't rebounded as prolifically as the state's has.

According to March numbers, there were 18,200 nonfarm jobs in Fulton County, about 100 fewer than the same time last year, and 800 jobs fewer than in March 2008, before the recession took hold in 2008. This year, Montgomery County had 200 fewer jobs than in 2011 and about 700 fewer than before the recession.

Unemployment rates have remained high. They are 11.1 percent in Fulton County and 10.9 percent in Montgomery County.

Gail Breen, executive director of Fulton-Montgomery-Schoharie Workforce Solutions, said the job market has changed to the point where middle-skilled workers need to be retrained to make them attractive to prospective employers or current employers to maintain positions.

"That goes back to the middle-skills kind of jobs," she said. "The jobs that require more than high school graduation, and perhaps a certificate from BOCES or two-year college degree."

Over the past year, the education and health service fields, which encompass private education and medical institutions, added 200 jobs in Fulton County and another 100 jobs in Montgomery County as the two area hospitals have opened satellite offices throughout the region to accommodate a growing need.

Hospitals added 430 jobs in the Mohawk Valley between 2007 and 2010.

According to Cheryl McGrattan, a spokeswoman for Littauer Hospital, diagnostic imaging, respiratory therapy and food service have been areas in which the hospital has seen the most growth.

Lana Wydra, vice president of human resources at the hospital, said the hospital's employment ranks, now at about 980, have grown in the five years she has been there as primary care centers have opened throughout Fulton County. There also is a primary care center in Hamilton County.

Wydra said the hospital may face a challenge in the laboratory, where many of the schools have closed in the United States. This could force the hospital to look outside the country when it comes to filling those positions.

It also is difficult to fill positions in respiratory therapy, she said.

"Sometimes, we have to reach beyond the Capital District," she said.

Barb DeLuca, who works in the respiratory therapy department, said Hudson Valley Community College in Troy and Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica have respiratory programs that have close to 100 percent job-placement rates.

"Some of them have jobs before they even finish the programs," she said.

Wydra said Fulton-Montgomery Community College is working with area employers to train the workforce to their needs, but programs are still being developed.

Construction jobs have suffered the most in Fulton and Montgomery counties, as high unemployment has stifled earnings and governments have cut back on jobs.

Workforce Solutions also works with employers to get their current employees the necessary training to keep their own jobs.

"If someone has good, basic skills, show up on time. Just because they don't have technical skills, you don't want to lay off because they are good employees," Breen said.

Mike Zummo can be reached at



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