Sit down with any group of local business leaders and you can bet the conversation will turn to the “skills gap” and the difficulty companies have finding the right worker for jobs.
“There is a talent shortage,” said Joanie Krein, vice president-market manager for Manpower of Dayton Inc. “Manufacturing in Dayton is at a critical level as far as the labor shortage. But also skilled trades, engineers, sales representatives.”
What companies are looking for depends on the job, but here is a primer of the skills most in demand.
- Most people in the region — more than 90 percent, according to U.S. Census data — have at least a high school degree or GED, but employers are increasingly seeking a credential beyond that. Highly sought skills include welding, construction, automotive technology, computer-aided manufacturing, specific computer software programs or dental assisting.
- College still matters. Of 15,554 ads posted on Ohio’s online jobs board from May to June of this year in 12 area counties – including Montgomery, Greene and Clark counties – 71 percent required either an associate’s degree (45.5 percent), bachelor’s degree (21.5 percent), or a master’s or doctorate (4.1 percent). “There is tremendous demand for high-quality STEM individuals,” said Michael Bridges, president of Peerless Technologies Corp. in Fairborn, a defense contracting company requiring workers who are highly skilled in science, technology, engineering and math. “They can be a little harder to get and can be a little more demanding in terms of their salary and benefit requirements.”
- Employers value the so-called soft skills: being able to communicate effectively, work as part of a team, use critical thinking to resolve problems, and to show initiative. “The number one thing we hear are leadership skills – all levels from beginning to C-suite executives,” said Shannon Byrant, Sinclair Community College interim vice president for workforce development.
- Be responsible. Employers expect workers to have proficiency in the basics — reading, writing, math — and to show responsibility. “Everybody from across the world, they are complaining about people not showing up every day and not showing up on time and (about) getting enough people to pass a drug test,” said Melinda Jeffrey, marketing and career development manager for Hobart Institute of Welding Technology in Troy.
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Jan Lepore-Jentleson, executive director of East End Community Services in Dayton, said not showing up for work on time may not reflect on a person’s work ethic. Many people in this region lack reliable child care or a good social network to help out when the unexpected pops up, she said.
“We see it all the time in warehousing and distribution,” Lepore-Jentleson said. “Women will get told that morning that they have to work a 10-hour shift or a 12-hour shift. And what are they going to do with their children? I think that’s short-sightedness on the part of employers.”
Jerry Parisi, chairman and chief executive of I Supply Co, a Fairborn restaurant supply distributor, said he hires plenty of people with kids, but companies with 24/7 operations like his don’t always have the flexibility in staffing to cover for workers who call off because of child care issues.
“Employers can’t afford too much bench in every position to perform the tasks (during) an absent employee’s unexpected absence,” Parisi said.
Krein said it is costly to hire and train an employee, only to lose that person because of child care or transportation issues. Instead, she said, employers when possible should offer flexible schedules, let people work from home and “don’t put up unnecessary barriers to people that are in need.”
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Some employers got in the habit of being overly choosy about job candidates when unemployment was high and thousands of people were hunting for jobs, Krein said.
“The expectations that employers had about attracting and retaining talent 10 years ago really have to change because we are not in the same job market now,” she said. “If you are paying less (than your competitors) it’s a pretty clear indication of why you can’t find talent.”
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In addition to technical skills, here are the so-called soft skills employers look for in a job applicant
- Ability to communicate
- Ability to work within a team
- Can lead and motivate people
- Can take initiative to set and achieve goals
- Can solve problems logically and creatively
- Can handle change and adapt
- Can relate well with others
- Is motivated to pursue and complete projects
- Has ability to understand data, statistics and graphs