PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Economists say one reason unemployment remains high even though the economy is recovering is that laid-off workers don’t have the skills needed for the new jobs being created.

James DePalma (at right in photo) reported to his job as a forklift technician one Friday about a year and a half ago, and by 10am he was unemployed.  The timing, he says, couldn’t have been worse.

“We were expecting a child,” he recalls.  “I’m laid off, on unemployment, and we had to find something for the future.”

DePalma did what experts say many of the workers laid off in the latest recession are going to have to do: he went back to school to get the skills needed for the jobs that are now available.

Bill Schafer (left) teaches telecommunications at Orleans Tech, in Northeast Philadelphia. That’s where DePalma went to retool his skills, tackling head on one of the biggest problems with the jobless recovery: “skills mismatch.”

“In today’s technology world, if you close your eyes and open them, there’s something new,” Schafer told KYW Newsradio recently.

Philadelphia area officials say thousands of new jobs have been created since the official end of the recession in 2009, but workers who lost their jobs often don’t have the skills to do them. That’s where Schafer comes in.

“We’re building a room right now that houses smart technology,” Schafer explained as he showed off the school’s facilities.

Schafer trains displaced workers (and also recent high school graduates) in the kind of high-tech skills now needed — and in the good work habits and customer service that’s always in demand.

For DePalma, it was a lifesaver.

“Our baby just turned four months old and we’re definitely happy with the opportunities that are starting to present themselves to me,” he says.  “So things are looking good.”

Reported by Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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