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Hampton Roads Workforce leaders trying to help workers connect with available jobs and switch careers

As thousands of Virginians file unemployment claims each day because of coronavirus impacts, workforce opportunities are shifting.

NORFOLK, Va. — Unemployment rates are surging, and experts expect they will continue to spike in the coming weeks.

Hampton Roads Workforce Council CEO and President Shawn Avery said the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries are taking huge hits during the coronavirus pandemic. He said at the start of 2020 there was a clear demand for workers in the 757, but now he's not as sure. 

“We’ve completely flipped; in the last few weeks there's been a dramatic change in the environment that we work in," Avery said.

But even in this climate, Avery said service-related and delivery industries are hiring. Grocery stores like Kroger and Food Lion are hiring, and Avery knows of opportunities in the transportation, maritime, and offshore wind fields.

“If we can get individuals who may have been in hospitality or retail field and may want to move into a new industry, there are some opportunities there," Avery said. 

That's good news for the thousands of Virginians who are filing unemployment claims each day. 

“Clearly a lot of small to medium-sized businesses are much more vulnerable, they don’t have much margin for error," said TCC professor Peter Shaw.

Hampton City Schools and other school divisions are looking for teachers, holding virtual career fairs.

Avery said anyone needing work should register on the Virginia Career Works Hampton Roads website. There they can connect with employers looking to hire. He encourages workers to use the 'Contact Us' tab on the website.

“You’re not in this alone, we’re all here to help, we’re still open for business to help you get a job, connected with the services to keep going, don’t lose heart," he said. 

VCW is exploring rapid certification for some fields through online training with its educational partners, and Avery believes this job crisis could have long-term impacts on career opportunities in the area.

“It may actually change a lot of the ways business is being done, it’s changing the way we do business," Avery said.

And for employers, the U.S. Small Business Administration is now offering low-interest federal disaster loans for businesses suffering due to coronavirus impacts.

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