HARAHAN, La. -- At a recent job fair for veterans, Charles Krehr, who served eight years in the Marine Corps, was shaking hands and trying to make connections. As he finishes up college, Krehr says his hope is to find a job in human resources. Landing a good job, Krehr says, is difficult.
"It's been a little bit of a nightmare, it's just about exposure, it's trying to get out there and have someone look at your resume look at your skills," said Krehr.
Conesa King served 14 years in the Navy and was also looking to get a job in human resources or as a business analyst. Like Krehr, she says the job hunt is a tough one. And like Krehr, she didn't initially consider work in technical fields.
"I could get out there and get dirty. If they could give me could training and I could keep all ten of my fingers, I surely would," said King.
It's the training that King mentioned that companies like the Laitram Corporation say is so crucial. The Harahan-based industrial equipment manufacturer makes products like conveyor belts. At Laitram's Machine Shop division, general manager Hans Ruoss says there's a local shortage of trained workers like machinists and electricians. To help fill its need for skilled labor, Ruoss says, the company has had to look beyond Louisiana to get hire its help.
"We are a local company, it's frustrating we had to do so but we recently had to recruit outside, go to several other states," said Ruoss.
Rich Westberry came to Laitram and the New Orleans area two years ago for family reasons. Unlike most job seekers, the experienced machinist had no problem finding work.
"I got down here, gave Laitram a call and about five days later went for an interview and three days later they had a packet for me for an enrollment and I was hired immediately," said Westberry.
Westberry says if candidates have the right background and training, then there's plenty of work. Ruoss says the average pay at Laitram Machine Shop is $52,000 a year and there's room for advancement.
"There's good money, but you have to work for it," said Westberry.
Industry insiders say one factor contributing to the shortage is fewer students are going to school eyeing a career as an electrician, a welder or technician.
"The programs were abandoned for whatever reason over the past ten to twenty years," said Ruoss.
While that interest in such work may be dropping, the need for those workers is not. The Louisiana Workforce Commission estimates nearly 2,500 construction jobs are available right now in the New Orleans area.
To help ensure locals can fill such openings, companies like Laitram are partnering with high schools, Delgado Community College, the University of New Orleans Southeastern Louisiana University. The goal is to infuse interest and money into vocational programs which can produce new, qualified recruits. They will likely have many opportunities. Some estimates predict 12,000-30,000 new technical jobs will be created in the Gulf Coast area over the next decade.