Searching for employees in the Madison area: It's a job seeker's market in some fields, experts say [The Wisconsin State Journal]
(Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 03--On this Labor Day, the chances of finding a job in the Madison area are a lot better than they were a year ago, experts say.
--Thermal Spray Technologies, Sun Prairie, is trying to hire six manufacturing employees.
--Sub-Zero and Wolf, Madison, is looking for "a little bit of everything" -- from engineers and assemblers to professional staff.
--Esker, Madison, needs a sales and marketing person.
The economy is coming back, and many employers are looking to hire in the Madison area, compared with a year or two ago, experts say. In fact, in some cases, job seekers can afford to be selective.
"Because of the change in the economy and more companies hiring, it has become more of an applicants' market. They can be choosy in terms of what kind of job they want," at least, in some fields, said Janet Johnson, chief operating officer and vice president for sales and marketing for The QTI Group, based in Madison.
Johnson said today's applicants might get more than one job offer and can consider if the position is the right career move or a good fit with the rest of the staff, not just take a job -- any job -- as soon as possible. "And that's very, very different than it was a year ago," she said.
Labor market economist Eric Grosso, with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, said unemployment figures confirm the positive trend. The jobless rate in Dane County was 4.8 percent in July, down from 5.3 percent a year ago and a decrease of nearly one-fourth from its peak July rate of 6.3 percent in 2009.
According to the quarterly census of employment and wages, Dane County added 3,844 jobs from the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013.
"We are seeing growth in Dane County, better than average growth," Grosso said. "But we're still recovering."
Construction was the fastest-growing field, adding more than 1,200 jobs in Dane County during that period; leisure and hospitality increased by nearly 1,000 and education and health services added nearly 900 positions.
Manufacturing expanded by a smaller 220 jobs over the first three months of 2012, but it seems to be one of the hot industries in the Madison area and through much of the state at this time.
Just in the past month or two, in particular, the demand for manufacturing employees has been climbing "at a very brisk pace," said Jill Mattson, sales executive with Manpower, whose territory covers Madison to Milwaukee to Appleton.
"Clients are doing a lot of hiring in that area," for positions ranging from assemblers to forklift operators to machinists, Mattson said.
QTI's Johnson agreed that the call for manufacturing workers is widespread, "from the factory to the boardroom." Demand is "significantly more" than a year or two ago, she said.
Thermal Spray Technologies is among those expanding, with plans to increasing its production staff by about 10 percent. A jump in business orders is prompting the move at the company, which sprays coatings onto a variety of types of parts, said human resources manager Natalie Gundrum.
Welders are among the jobs that seem to be hardest to fill.
"They're not a dime a dozen," said Melissa Dunn, global director of human resources for Thermo Fisher Scientific. The Fitchburg instrument manufacturer is trying to hire a welder, and it isn't easy, she said.
"We're building very complex and sensitive machinery," she said. "We are looking for skilled technicians that can put together some very complex parts that make up our machines."
Thermo Fisher, 5225 Verona Road, makes molecular spectroscopy machines that analyze the structure of a wide variety of products. The television program "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" uses a Thermo Fisher machine as a prop, Dunn said.
The need for welders -- for industries ranging from motorcycles to medical devices to construction -- is 20 to 25 percent higher than in the previous 18 to 24 months, Johnson said. For skilled manufacturing positions in general, jobs are often hard to fill, she said.
"The people who are qualified to work in these jobs are currently working," Johnson said. "Qualified workers are highly employed and highly sought after."
Welders can earn $18 to $30 an hour while general laborers are paid $10 and up, she said.
"Welders and fabricators -- that's the core of our business. They are extremely difficult skill sets to find today. We don't find folks, at least in this market, who have the work experience and/or the training to step into the jobs," said Chuck Verri, vice president-human resources for Sub-Zero Group.
So the upscale Sub-Zero refrigeration and Wolf range manufacturer is taking a different approach.
"We are looking for good candidates with good work histories, and we're doing a little bit of training. We've set up areas for teaching and testing folks in those skills. That's probably what we're going to be looking at for the future," Verri said.
Machine operators and production workers are among the hardest-to-fill positions listed by CareerBuilder, in a July report. But so are openings for sales representatives, nurses, truck drivers, software developers, engineers, marketing professionals, accountants, mechanics and information technology managers, based on a Harris Interactive survey and data from Economic Modeling Specialists.
A Manpower survey also found that sales is one of the top 10 jobs, in Wisconsin and nationwide, having the toughest time finding applicants, Mattson said.
"I think it's a hard skill set. A lot of people don't like to sell, and some jobs are on commission only or with a small base," she said. "You have to be very self-motivated; you have to be a risk-taker."
Esker advertised two openings in sales and marketing in early June with a base pay of $40,000 to $45,000. One was filled fairly quickly but the other is still available, said Kasey Schmitz, senior lead generation manager.
"It has been challenging to get applicants," Schmitz said. "Historically, I would think it would be one of the easier positions to fill." Esker's products are used to help companies automate processes and reduce paperwork.
Call centers are boosting staff, both for retail businesses preparing for the holiday season and insurance companies preparing for benefit enrollment, said Mattson, and customer service positions are increasing overall as consumers do more shopping.
Also in demand now are IT employees as well as engineering and human resources staff, said Matt Duffy, QTI chief operating officer of professional, executive and administrative staffing.
Information technology employees are not only being sought for Internet-based companies, he said. "Manufacturing companies need to hire IT. Startup companies need to hire IT," Duffy said. Salaries for engineering and computer-related jobs can range from $20,000 to $150,000, he said, based on skill levels and experience.
Employment service officials said, though, not every field is hiring; government, for example, continues to cut positions. Also, quite a few companies are still hoping to add staff on a temporary basis, a trend that became widespread when the recession hit.
Temporary white-collar employees are still "in very high demand" but workers are less willing to take those positions, said QTI's Duffy. Johnson, also of QTI, said general laborers are being sought for a limited term, too. "The need for temporary or temp-to-hire is as strong as ever; that has not changed," she said.
For skilled laborers, though, "as much as organizations would like to go temp-to-hire, in order to get the talent they need, they really need to hire them directly. They're not going to leave a job for a 'maybe' (full-time position later), or a hope and a prayer," Johnson said.
According to the Job Center of Wisconsin, in south central Wisconsin, the top two job categories seeking applicants with at least a bachelor's degree are managers and software developers; for those with a technical or associate degree, nursing assistants and registered nurses; and for those with a high school diploma, customer service representatives and production workers.
The categories are based on the number of openings posted on Job Center of Wisconsin and its partners, Job Central and US Jobs, as of early August.
(c)2013 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
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