Department of Workforce Services

After just two years on the job, Wyoming’s occupational epidemiologist is leaving. Mack Sewell is the second person to hold the position. His predecessor, Timothy Ryan, quit amid frustration over what he saw as Wyoming’s lack of desire to improve workplace safety. Sewell, on the other hand, is retiring.

The occupational epidemiologist position was created to address Wyoming’s high rate of workplace injuries and fatalities. Sewell says the state has taken steps in the right direction, but that it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions from the limited amount of data available.

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Nationwide, including Wyoming, states are working to build huge databases that can track students from preschool all the way into the workforce. In the brave new world of big data, the thought is—more information means smarter education policy decisions and improved learning. But some parents worry that these systems will go too far.

At Laramie County Community College, a classroom full of people is talking about control groups and independent variables. It’s not as exciting as it sounds, but it is important.

Wyoming’s unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since January 2009 when the economic downturn began to affect the state.  It’s now at 4.4 percent.  This time last year, it was 5 percent.  The national unemployment rate is 7 percent. 

Senior Economist at the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, David Bullard, says that although this month’s progress is good news, job growth could still be improved.   “The job growth has been very slow, well under one percent,” he says.  “That presents a challenge to the state’s economy.”

Thirty-one workers died on the job in Wyoming in 2012, up from 29 the year before. That’s according to a report by Wyoming’s occupational epidemiologist.  Wyoming has one of the worst workplace death rates in the nation. The report attributes that to the fact that a large proportion of Wyoming’s workforce is employed in high risk occupations like oil and gas, ranching, and construction jobs.

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The Lander-based software company Pitch Engine has received a grant from the Department of Workforce Services to train 30 Wyomingites to be software developers.

Pitch Engine co-founder Jason Kintzler says there’s a shortage of programmers nationwide, and a growing number of companies need workers who can keep up with changing technology.

“Regardless of the industry, whether it be energy, tourism, agriculture, they’re all impacted by tech, and at some level, they’re all gonna be touched by these type of skill sets,” Kintzler says.