Survey of Minnesota employers finds hiring difficulties in nine occupations
Mar 08, 2013 (Pioneer Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Nursing jobs in Minnesota aren't so hard for employers to fill, relative to several other types of jobs.
But if you're looking to hire a skilled machinist or production workers in a manufacturing plant, that might be more of a challenge.
A recent survey of Minnesota employers in nine occupations found that hiring difficulties were reported in 45 percent of the vacancies.
The survey focused specifically on nursing, engineering and production-related work -- fields where anecdotal evidence pointed to a shortage of workers.
The challenges of matching qualified workers to employers included applicants who had the wrong skills, employers who didn't offer competitive wages or a mix of similar factors that kept positions unfilled.
"A very small percentage of the vacancies in these cherry-picked areas were identified by employers themselves as being because of a lack of skills" in the workforce, said Steve Hine, director of the state's Labor Market Information Office.
A total of 15 percent of all vacancies were hard to fill solely because of an inadequate supply of workers, the study found.
To conduct the study, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development contacted 213 employers who together had 1,536 openings in the second quarter of 2012.
In 6 percent of all openings, the hiring difficulties were attributable to employer-related issues including low pay, undesirable hours or a poor location.
Of all the vacancies that
were identified as difficult to fill, 61 percent had been filled by the time the department followed up three to nine months later, said Oriane Casale, assistant director of the state's Labor Market Information Office.
The success in filling nursing positions, the report said, was due largely to Minnesota's post-secondary institutions responding to a well-documented nursing shortage that was identified over the past decade.
For positions that weren't filled, that empty slot led to an overload for existing staff for 12 percent of the survey's respondents, increased costs for overtime or contractors for 82 percent and an inability to expand or innovate for 38 percent.
The hardest jobs to fill in the survey -- the production jobs -- suffer from too few young people being pointed toward manufacturing, the disappearance of machine shop classes in high schools and the poor image of blue-collar work in general, respondents said.
Mike Yeager, owner of Yeager Machine in Norwood, Minn., thinks part of the shortage of skilled machinists is tied to the decline of family farms, where young people often worked on repairing machinery. It was a natural path, with some additional training, to becoming a machinist.
"We never really replaced the incoming flow of kids," he said. Yeager, whose shop employs about 18 people, currently has four openings, though they're for shifts with later hours.
He has staffing agencies looking for qualified people, but they're hard to find, he said. He could hire someone out of school, he said, "but I think it takes me a couple of years to get to a point where he's making me money."
The manufacturing industry takes criticism for not paying well, he said, but he tries to remain competitive. Yeager's machinists generally make from the mid-$40,000s to the mid-$50,000s before overtime pay, which right now is about 15 hours per week, he said.
"There's no easy answer" to finding more machinists, he said. He is partnering with South Central College in North Mankato on a customized training program and hopes that will help in the future.
Hine noted that the manufacturing sector in Minnesota has shed about 100,000 jobs -- 25 percent of its previous total -- since the late 1990s. Data also shows that wages for production workers are growing at their slowest rate in 20 years, he added. Automated production lines with more robots and fewer people factor into that trend.
Yeager believes manufacturing employment numbers will continue to drop because of automation and increased productivity.
His shop in Norwood brings in twice the revenue it did 10 years ago with the same number of people, he said. What's needed, Yeager said, are more skilled people to run the new high-tech machinery.
John Welbes can be reached at 651-228-2175.
___ (c)2013 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) Visit the Pioneer Press (St.
Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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