WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — As we rebound from the pandemic, there are new concerns about the local workforce.
A new report shows the top concern right now for employers in the Buffalo-Niagara region is finding and retaining qualified talent.
Diving deeper into unemployment numbers in Western New York, you can see that purple line showing the unemployment rate for Erie County. It is just below six percent, which is slightly higher than it was back in May.
It is also well above the U.S. average.
With millions of Americans quitting their jobs, one woman is sharing her story about leaving her field in education to take on a new career, like so many others who made a big switch during the pandemic.
“I was always passionate about teaching,” Alexa Zappia said.
However, at the height of the pandemic, 6th grade English teacher, Alexa Zappia said she realized just like the pandemic shifted the world, she decided life was too short not to shift to another personal passion: broadcast television.
“I dabbled in that and just said, you know what, 'this is really where my heart is: TV and entertainment. I went from being this quiet girl teaching, to now working in TV as a casting producer doing interviews like this all the time. so, it's very funny how my life has completely changed."
Zappia is not. CNBC reports before the pandemic, an estimated one out of six teachers was considering quitting.
The nonprofit, Rand Corporation, estimates since the pandemic, this number has grown to one in four teachers.
Since March of this year, Zappia has played a key role in casting members of shows, such as don't forget the lyrics, Worst Cooks in America and Supermarket Sweep.
“Now, I’m on Married at First Sight for lifetime and then I will be on Love is Blind for Netflix, in a couple of weeks. Essentially, the people that you see on TV, I work with my team and through instagram outreach or cold- calling or whatever it is, I work to find people that you guys see on TV that win the money or win the wedding,” she said. “I take them through the casting process, interview them and work with out network executives to find five or ten, however many."
Her connections are all thanks to a second job she has.
“I got a job with Karyn Reece, who is a celebrity psychic medium and fell in love with it right out of college,” she said.
Additionally, her late grandfather, Steve Zappia, who was instrumental in a local broadcast station we all may be familiar with, encouraged her to follow her dreams. In the industry.
“He was just very instrumental in WKBW. He was the manager there, he worked on shows like Rocketship 7, Dialing for Dollars with Dave Thomas,” she said. "In hospice, one of his last things was, 'do what you gotta do to make a difference.'"
Now, she is carrying the torch and honoring the Zappia name.
She does it in a Williamsville office, in the city that raised her and working with executive producers in Los Angeles.
“Make the switch if it feels right,” she added. “This is probably not a job that you're going to be in for the rest of your life. It's all about experience, so if you have the opportunity and it feels right-- that's my biggest thing."