St. Louis, Missouri (PRWEB) August 08, 2012
2012 State of St. Louis Workforce Report reveals skills gap, ways to overcome challenges
Although the employment rate has improved in the St. Louis region since 2010, a skills gap in the workforce remains one of the top challenges for the local economy, according to the fourth annual State of St. Louis Workforce Report developed by St. Louis Community College. This morning, a panel of local employers discussed how theyre identifying ideal job applicants and finding ways to overcome the skills gap to fill open positions.
Employers must play a role in training new and existing workers with the skills needed to compete in the fast-paced global economy. In this years report, 76 percent of employers said they hired less experienced workers and trained them with the skills they needed, said Rod Nunn, vice chancellor for economic development and workforce solutions for St. Louis Community College, who also moderated todays panel discussion. The skills gap is one of the regions most important economic challenges, and I was pleased to hear from four employers today who are making important investments to get the right employees, with the right skills, in the right positions.
During todays discussion attended by more than 400 business, education and civic leaders representatives from The Boeing Company, Gateway EDI, BJC Healthcare and Gallus BioPharmaceuticals shared some of their talent acquisition and development solutions, including:
Offering tuition remission and paid training benefits for current employees so they advance their skills and move up within the organization.
Creating opportunities for professional development and a culture of continuous learning to increase employee engagement so workers stay with the company long-term.
Developing peer-to-peer and mentor training programs to encourage the sharing of best practices in the company and reinforce a culture of continuous learning.
Reaching out to students throughout different levels of education to encourage them to pursue careers in growth fields like healthcare and engineering.
When we have a position to fill, we will wait for the right candidate, Rebecca Shocklee, director of human resources for Gallus BioPharmaceuticals, said during todays panel. We have a rigorous screening process, and 99 percent of the time we feel we do a solid job of predicting performance.
According to this years State of St. Louis Workforce Report, one in three St. Louis area companies anticipates an increase in employment levels in the near term. However, those employers continue to find mismatches between job applicant skills and the job requirements for open positions. Many applicants arent work-ready, lacking the personal effectiveness competencies often described as soft skills needed to succeed in the modern work environment.
According to report presenter Alan Spell, economic and workforce research manager for Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a sharp rise in job openings for June. Spell went on to say that skill mismatches prevented many of those jobs from being quickly filled.
Where we find the skills gap most often is when candidates are coming to us without the necessary life skills or soft skills; often its the inability to communicate, said panelist JoAnn Shaw, vice president and chief learning officer for BJC HealthCare. If a person is dealing with patient or a patients family and cannot communicate, thats a problem.
To evaluate all factors affecting the regions workforce, St. Louis Community College conducted four phases of research: an environmental scan of the St. Louis economy, an employer survey with more than 1,200 businesses in the region, six in-depth case studies and an analysis of surveys and focus groups with community college graduates. Key findings from this years report, which can be downloaded at http://www.stlcc.edu/STLworkforce, include:
More than half of employers said recent hires lacked soft skills, specifically communication or interpersonal skills; work ethic; thinking and problem solving; and general knowledge of business or industry.
Soft skills are just as important as technical skills, said panelist Dave Cheli, chief information officer for Gateway EDI. Sometimes finding both of those in the same candidate is difficult. Weve made significant investments in internal training and formal mentoring programs, which has created a culture of continuous learning at our company.
Other key findings included: