Job hunting? These skills are in demand
Posted July 5, 2012
Updated July 6, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — When Doug White was laid off last September – after nearly 20 years in the printing business – he says he felt useless. He considered looking for another job in the industry but was worried it would be outsourced and shipped overseas again.
That fear of rejection inspired White to change careers and find a job that wanted him as badly as he wanted it. At age 44, he enrolled in Wake Technical Community College to become a plumber – a trade that is in high demand, according to ManpowerGroup’s 2012 Talent Shortage Survey.
The survey found that 49 percent of U.S. employers are having trouble filling critical positions, in large part to a mismatch between the skills job seekers have and the skills employers want.
The top 10 jobs American employers are struggling to fill are:
1) Skilled trades workers
3) IT staff
4) Sales representatives
5) Accounting and finance staff
9) Machinists/machine operators
The latest state jobs report shows nearly 440,000 North Carolinians, or about 9.4 percent, were unemployed in May – one of the highest rates in the country. The national unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in May.
For White, and many others, returning to school and changing careers was a safe way to stay off the jobless list.
“I’m hoping once I’m done here (at Wake Tech), I’m hoping to go out in the field and get back to work,” White said.
He is not alone. During the past four semesters, Wake Tech has had an average of 6,000 students on waiting lists, hoping to get into classes that are filled to capacity. President Stephen Scott says the school has experienced more than 31 percent growth over the past four years while having to deal with budget cuts of 25 percent per student.
"It makes it very difficult to have the technology that we need in order to train people for the skills that are available today," he said. "Community colleges provide that specialized opportunity for learning ... We constantly have people coming back to us, looking for some narrow, very specialized (program).”
Wake Tech's welding instructor says, out of 18 graduates last year, 16 were immediately hired. Hoping for long-term job security, Eddie Carter signed up for the plumbing program.
“(It’s) something I’ve never done before, but I heard you can make pretty decent money, and it’s a trade and it’s something that can’t be outsourced. It’s something people will always need,” Carter said.
The 33-year-old father of one says he managed restaurants for 12 years before doing “a complete 180” and changing careers.
“If I can figure out a way to be really good at plumbing, I’ll always be around and people will always need me. That’s something I’m looking forward to,” Carter said. “Hopefully it will pay off dividends in the future, and I think it will.”
'Mr. Employer, you need to be involved'
As president of the North Carolina Chamber, Lew Ebert says he is constantly told that companies are looking to hire but can't find qualified workers, especially among the state's manufacturers.
“No matter where I go, this issue comes up,” Ebert said. “Sixty-nine percent are having that same problem and view the inability to fill those jobs as something that’s slowing their ability to grow, compete.”
Ebert says he believes the root of the problem starts early and that “there’s a K-12 fix.”
Although the statewide high school graduation rate hit an all-time high of 77.9 percent in 2011, according to the state Department of Public Instruction, Ebert says it needs to be even higher.
The business community would also like to see a stronger focus on basic reading, math and vocational skills so “young people are coming out of high school ready to learn,” according to Ebert.
To help bridge the skills gap, Scott says Wake Tech is looking to partner with area companies to develop programs that target specific needs. They have already partnered with Novartis, John Deere, WakeMed, DukeRaleigh and NetApp.
“Mr. Employer, you need to be involved more with the educational institutions and tell us what we need to do in order to meet your needs,” Scott said. "Businesses have to step up, and we in education have to change."
Despite Wake Tech’s efforts, Manpower’s report found that, “as educational systems around the world have focused on four-year university education, this has resulted in the decline of vocational/technical programs – both curricula and enrollments have eroded over the past several decades.”
'It was time for a change'
Manpower researchers interviewed more than 38,000 employers in 41 countries and territories, including in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Employers in the Americas said the top reasons they have difficulty filling jobs are:
1) Lack of available applicants/no applicants – 36 percent
2) Lack of technical competencies – 36 percent
3) Lack of experience – 31 percent
4) Looking for more pay than is offered – 19 percent
5) Lack of employability skills – 15 percent
6) Candidate unwilling to work part-time/contingent roles – 8 percent
7) Overqualified candidates – 6 percent
Finding the right candidates to fill job vacancies is becoming increasingly difficult, according to employers in the Americas. This year, 41 percent reported this kind of difficulty, up from 37 percent in 2011 and 34 percent in 2010, the report found.
Eric Tewksbury says he hopes his drastic career change will help him fill one of those vacancies. The 44-year-old spent more than 20 years in the residential construction industry, working for himself, before deciding to switch paths and become a nurse.
“The real estate recession pretty much shut down new construction for quite a while, and it’s been a struggle since it happened,” Tewksbury said. “I was getting older. I knew at some point I was going to have to get a new career ... it was time for a change.”
He applied to Wake Tech’s nursing program, which takes about three years to get an associate’s degree.
“I’m trying to gain the skills for the demands that’s out there right now,” he said. “From what I understand, the job prospects are still good for nursing.”
Tewksbury graduates in December and said he hopes to soon breathe a big sigh of relief and get a job offer.
“That’s what I’m really looking forward to,” he said.
As Tewksbury and other skilled workers enter the job force, they will have an advantage over other job seekers, according to Manpower’s report.
“Individuals with in-demand skills will become more selective as they evaluate their employment options, compelling companies to develop better recruitment and retention strategies,” according to the report.