While the city's unemployment rate has shot downward since the same time last year, it hasn't gotten much easier to find a job, especially one locally.
Job training and unemployment has been cited as the city's most pressing need in Action's 2012-2014 community needs assessment.
At 7.8 percent, Gloucester has the third highest unemployment rate in Essex County, and second highest on the North Shore, the study notes. Fixing that, said Ronna Resnick, Action Inc.'s head of job training, hinges on companies coming to and hiring in Gloucester.
To that end, the city, said Ronn Garry, a local financial consultant, is looking to find its niche in the maritime economy and draw industries to the waterfront.
Action's staff, however, said they're training people for industries that have openings now. But local companies aren't hiring like gangbusters either.
Peter Webber, interim director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, said Gloucester's business community has started hiring again. But that hiring, he added, hasn't reached a level that's showing a strong resurgence.
While service agencies such as Action Inc. say they can train people and help them find work, without more companies coming to and hiring in Gloucester, the city's jobless rate may not show any major drop soon, Webber said.
The city has a recognized workforce of about 16,756, with about 1,301 people unemployed as of the start of this year.
According to the latest data from the state's Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Gloucester's unemployment rate rose from a revised mark of 7.5 percent in October to 7.8 percent in November.
That's significantly above the statewide November jobless rate of 6.4 percent, according to the same study. But the latest Gloucester figures, however, mark a 14 percent improvement over the 9.1 percent comparable jobless rate posted for the city in November 2010.
Two people staff Action's job training operation. Along with the North Shore Career Center, it is one of the few job training programs on Cape Ann.
In all, 687 people are utilizing the nonprofit Action's job services, which have roughly a $250,000 general job training budget, funded mostly through private donations. The nonprofit, said Resnick, runs general career readiness and skills courses and does some specialty training.
That training, she said, is in health care. Action runs a few classes each week on heath services skills, and that, she said, is because 18 percent of the area's economy falls under health services.
It's also an industry, she said, that has open positions — and it doesn't serve anyone, she said, to prep people seeking job training for industries that aren't in demand.
Action, said Patty Bongiorno, the nonprofit's career co-ordinator, places people with Addison Gilbert Hospital and Cape Ann Medical Center, as well as other companies outside Cape Ann. The agency, she said, has placed about 55 percent of the people who come for job training.
"We look at what is most in demand," said Resnick.
As far as industries go, Resnick added, there aren't many with open positions in Gloucester.
Local work, said Peggy Hegarty-Steck, action's program director, is a priority for local residents, especially those who don't have the money to pay for gas to commute to places such Peabody or beyond.
Garry added that access to skilled labor is something businesses look for when they settle in a community.
But, the kinds of skills the city can present to new industries is a question Gloucester has to answer as it defines its niche in marine industry, he added.
Gloucester hosted a Maritime Summit last fall to take a stab at that definition. The summit looked toward creating an innovative and practical marine economy, composed of commercial fishing, the marine research that surrounds it, biotechology and marine technology — all industries, said Garry, that could be suited to Gloucester's deep water harbor.
"The question is," he said, "how serious are we about attaining this?"
When Gloucester defines its industrial focus, Garry said, it can start training people for that focus.
Some of Gloucester's longstanding industries have started growing in the last few months, with Bomco Industries and Gorton's both expanding and planning to add jobs.
And Action and the Chamber of Commerce are looking to connect those industries with residents looking for work.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.