Employment Density, Middle Skills Training Key, Workforce Report Shows

By on August 9, 2019

by Tom Finan, Executive Director, Construction Forum STL

“There is no savior coming for St. Louis,” Amy Shaw told attendees at the release of the 11th annual “State of the St. Louis Workforce 2019” report (click here to download PDF)  Wednesday morning (August 7). ” The savior is in this room.”

Shaw, interim CEO and president for the Nine Network of Public Media, was speaking to the choir. The audience at  the Mildred Bastian Theater at St. Louis at St. Louis Community College (SLCC) included many familiar faces in the St. Louis workforce development space.

Nine Network’s Amy Shaw

Shaw recounted Nine Network’s own efforts — with the American Graduate program — and its collaboration with other organizations such as the STL Regional Youth Employment Coalition, which partnered with the Clark-Fox Foundation to produce the Blueprint4Careers portal; and the Regional Business Council, which built a collaboration to launch the STLWorks portal. Shaw said that the American Graduate effort has shown that partnerships and information sharing can inform and drive action.

Perhaps the biggest take-away from the morning was that St. Louis, as in the past, is lagging other areas in economic growth. The region cannot rely on in-migration of population to require the skilled workers needed to attract economic development, Daniel Davis, assistant vice president and community affairs officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis said. This creates a cycle of not-enough-skilled-employees=not enough economic growth=not enough new jobs.

“St. Louis trails national trends,” Davis stated. “We are a slow-growth market.” He noted out-migration to the West as an issue. Davis said that one of the St. Louis’ regions major issues in terms of economic growth is that the jobs are so spread out. This exacerbates infrastructure issues such as transportation and housing related to up-skilling and placing the region’s economically marginalized in jobs. “Are the people living where the jobs are?” he posited. He suggested that measures to, “get folks to move to the center of the region,” find ways to bring disabled individuals into the workforce, and hiring the formerly incarcerated could be key drivers.

This was echoed in some of the findings of the  report. Dr. Jeff Pittman, chancellor of SLCC, which produces the report, said that 1144 companies participated in telephone interviews for the survey. Pittman said that the results highlighted the need to address incorporation of persons with disabilities, formerly incarcerated individuals, and African American males 18-24 into the workforce.

“The St. Louis age profile has changed over time,” the report’s executive summary stated, “with workers aged 55 and older having increased as a share of the workforce, while the 35-54 age groups have decreased. The 55-plus age groups have grown from 17.5% in 2008 to 23.6% in 2018.” As in recent previous reports, jobs requiring middle skills were most in demand and employers continued to bemoan poor work habits, soft skills and critical thinking among candidates.

The percentage of employers who would not consider formerly incarcerated candidates has declined form 26% in 2015 to 1% in the current survey, Alan Spell, economic and workforce research manager for the Missouri Department of Employment Development, which compiled the survey, said. Spell noted the failing drug tests was not a major reasons for employers rejecting candidates (5%), but said that this could possibly be because drug users may self-select out of applying for positions. He indicated that, in what could be a sign of lagging confidence in economic growth, increasing numbers of employers are turning to part time employees.

Food-service workers topped the in-demand jobs for high school or less candidates in terms of advertised annual openings. Registered nurses headed up the moderate- to long-term training category, and general and operations managers were in highest demand among bachelor’s degree or higher candidates. No construction-related positions appeared in the top demand jobs.

STLCC.edu/STLworkforce

 

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