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Unemployment rates have dropped in Burnet and Llano counties as of December 2020 and should continue to fall in 2021, announced Paul Fletcher, chief executive officer of Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, which includes the Highland Lakes.

In December, Burnet County reported an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent, which translates to 1,095 individuals looking for work. That was down from 5.2 percent in November. Llano County’s unemployment rate fell in December to 6 percent, or 518 people seeking employment.

“We’re inching our way back,” Fletcher said.

While the unemployment rate fell at the end of 2020, Fletcher noted the percentages are still double what they were in January 2020 “before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We did lose a lot of jobs in hospitality,” he said. “If you go back and look, 300 people were looking for jobs in Llano County in 2020 and 668 people in January 2020 in Burnet County.”

Still, he pointed to the fact that Horseshoe Bay Resort, which has employees in various departments, including sales, front desk, golf course maintenance, pro shops, real estate, and housekeeping, is looking to fill 61 jobs in hospitality.

That contributes to the 819 job openings in Burnet County and 417 job openings in Llano County in healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing.

Fletcher noted those industry needs conform with what his organization already knew: The local area has a shortage of workers with the skills employers need. That includes skilled trade workers such as plumbers and electricians as well.

Fletcher encouraged anyone who thinks they are too old to work in these areas to consider a career change.

“We really preach continued learning,” he said. “Let’s look at the skills you have and what skills are transferable to other industries. Let’s transfer those skills and get you in a better position to a job that’s in high demand.”

For instance, a person who worked in the steel industry already has trade skills, so that individual may consider becoming a welder or plumber.

The same is true, he said, of young people. Many have gone to work in a job like healthcare in the Highland Lakes, learned all they could, and then accepted a job in a bigger city with better pay and more social offerings.

Instead of them leaving, Fletcher wants young people to stay here where they can buy a home, raise a family, and be contributing members of society.

“One of our goals is to help youth to see what their career opportunities are,” he said. “If they leave, we’re left with no workforce.”

That’s why helping to create a housing market that school teachers, law enforcement members, and nurses can afford is a priority for Workforce Solutions as well as job training and placement.

“There is a need for houses that people can afford – the ability to buy a house for a reasonable price,” he said. “We have the right training opportunities, and we can evaluate skills to help them fit into the labor force.”

For more information on Workforce Solutions and its services, visit its website. Job seekers can stop by Community Resource Centers of Texas Inc., 1016 Broadway in Marble Falls, to look for job openings.