Don’t be afraid to answer your phone — your help could lead to better paying area jobs in the future. A research team from Texas will be calling Cullman residents this week for research in an underemployment study paid for by the Cullman Economic Development Agency.

“This study helps better identify the potential workforce in the county,” agency assistant director Dale Greer said. “Most of the manufacturers we speak to about locating here want to know about the strengths and weaknesses of the labor force.”

The study will pinpoint how many people are underemployed in Cullman, meaning they work jobs that do not require their education or experience, earn less than they deserve or commute out of town.

Cullman hired research firm The Pathfinders to conduct an underemployment study in 1999. The firm called residents and asked them questions about their levels of education, employment histories, how far they drive for work, how much they earn and what their desired salaries are. Greer said the data has been invaluable to the agency when trying to convince investors to locate in Cullman.

“We were genuinely impressed with the study,” he said. “It gave us really good, detailed information not usually available on a local level.”

Greer said the agency has used the data as long as it can without new research to show the area’s current employment gradient. Greer said Cullman’s low unemployment rate of less than four percent is seen as a strength to the community but a weakness when trying to recruit industry.

“We just have to have this study because of our low unemployment rate,” Greer said. “Companies want to know where they will get their employees.”

The 1999 study showed nearly 30,000 Cullman residents were not making what they are worth. Greer said he hopes this study will get citizens in jobs more fitting of their potentials.

“Our goal is to give people job opportunities here,” he said. “We can figure out a way to match our residents’ strengths with potential employers and tell businesses exactly what it will take to get a certain number of employees.”

Greer said the study should take about four months to complete and researchers will begin calling residents at the end of this week.

Residents can identify the research firm on their phones as “Research Company IUI” and calls should come from area codes 469, 972 or 214.

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