Where Are the Skilled Workers? — Rochester

In my recent series, “Where Are the Skilled Workers?” I focused on national trends that could help businesses find talent. (You will find that series on my blog). Can those same strategies help businesses in Rochester, NY?

In November, Unemployment in the Rochester area was still 6.3%. Yet local businesses continue to report difficulty filling key positions. Here are four strategies, based on workforce trends, which can help Rochester businesses find talent.

1. Recruit experienced workers who are un- or under-employed

In November the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported about 4 million long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more) and over 7.5 million part-time workers who want to work full time. Comparative data confirm that Rochester has its fair share of both groups of people. Here are some key reasons why you should consider hiring them.

  • The numbers of discouraged workers and others who are available but no longer actively searching for work have been declining. That trend suggests that many of the long-term unemployed have been going back to work.
  • Both the long-term unemployed and part-time workers have the “soft” skills that you are looking for (otherwise they would not have been in the labor force to begin with).
  • There are still National Emergency Grant funds available to cover the cost of on-the-job training for the long-term unemployed, but they will not be available for long.
  • Part-time workers have demonstrated that they really want to work, and some of them may already be on your payroll.

2. Take advantage of seasonal layoff patterns

Here is another time-sensitive opportunity for you. Layoffs follow predictable, seasonal cycles. Involuntary separations tend to peak in December and January of each year. In contrast, hiring tends to drop to its lowest level in the November–February period. I believe that these national trends hold true for our local area.

You can take advantage of the trends by hiring new employees during the December–February timeframe. You will have both the largest pool of available, experienced workers and the least competition for them. If your company typically lays off workers during this period, could you use the time to strategically retain and train your most valuable employees?

3. Recruit for diversity

Here is a strategy based on data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for Rochester and Monroe County. Consider the following groups.

  • Younger Workers. There are over 100,000 young men and women, aged 20–29, in Monroe County. You will need them to replace the retiring Baby Boomers.
  • Older Workers. There are nearly 150,000 people, aged 55–74, in Monroe County. The 55-and-older group is the only age demographic whose Labor Force Participation Rate increased in the last decade. So they just may be willing to stay on with you, even if you can only keep them part time.
  • Women. Young women are more likely to have higher basic skills levels than their male counterparts. They may also be interested in the often higher-paying, non-traditional occupations for women.
  • Racial and Ethnic Minorities. Labor Force numbers for white, non-Hispanic men have remained flat since 2000. In contrast, we have seen increases for every other group.
  • Individuals With Disabilities and Veterans. These are two additional groups that are likely to have some solid, transferable skills.

4. Look for workers who are leaving declining occupations or industries.

So you cannot find qualified candidates who have experience in both the occupation and industry for which you are hiring. Could you find someone with experience in one or the other? Or perhaps a qualified candidate has experience in a related occupation or industry with the right set of transferable skills.

You will find a pool of available workers in declining occupations. Rochester-area occupations that are shrinking at the fastest rate include the following.

  • Postal service workers
  • Sewing machine operators and garment pressers
  • Word processors, typists, computer operators, and switchboard operators

The following Rochester-area industry sectors experienced over 10,000 employment separations each during the last quarter of 2012. (Note: These industries are not necessarily in decline. But the workers may be available.)

  • Professional and business services
  • Education and health services
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities

Admittedly, none of these strategies are “silver bullets” for solving your recruitment needs. What they are is an important set of trends to keep in mind when searching for talent.

Image above from publicdomainpictures.net
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