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Regional Talent Development Issues Are Focus of St. Louis Workforce Report

August 11, 2015

State of St. Louis Workforce Report  


St. Louis Community College recently presented the seventh annual State of the St. Louis Workforce Report, highlighting key talent development issues for the region.


The report, compiled by the college’s Workforce Solutions Group, includes an employer survey that tracks trends in employment, highlights hiring practices and gauges employers’ perceptions on a range of workforce issues. It also includes the results of a focus group of economically disadvantaged individuals participating in local training and education programs. The report outlines continued improvement in hiring but with a more challenging environment for employers in finding a qualified workforce. 


The findings were released to nearly 400 business and community leaders at the college’s Forest Park campus. The event included a presentation of the findings and reactions by a panel of leading employers, business, and community organizations facilitated by Rod Nunn, interim president of STLCC’s Forest Park campus.


Attendees had an opportunity to participate in small group discussions after the report and panel reaction. The event was co-sponsored by the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and aired live on HEC-TV network.


“I am excited to be a part of the St. Louis community and all that you do here,” said Jeff Pittman, Ph.D., STLCC chancellor. “I believe that we can use this report to better our region and the lives of the people who reside here. We at the college are especially pleased that this year’s research speaks directly to the economic opportunity gaps faced by many in our community.”


The theme of this year’s report is “Economic Opportunity Gaps in the St. Louis Workforce.” The employer survey included questions about practices that either create barriers or built bridges to economic opportunity.


Speakers and panelists included Rod Nunn, interim president at STLCC-Forest Park; Michael McMillan, president and CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis; Kathy Osborn, executive director, Regional Business Council; John Gaal, director of training and workforce development, Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis; Eric Henderson, Missouri area human resources manager, UPS; and Alan Spell, research manager, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.


Key findings from the survey of more than 1,100 regional employers include:

·         The economy and labor market has nearly recovered by many measures. Almost four in 10 employers reported increases in employment over the last year, while only slightly more than one in 10 reported decreases. As in past years, a slight majority of employers (52%) reported that their employment remained the same.

·         For the first time since the survey began, the shortage of workers with knowledge or skills is the most frequently cited barrier to expanding employment, surpassing economic conditions and government policies or regulations.

·         Fifty-five percent of employers reported experiencing skill shortages. When asked, 83 percent of the employers surveyed reported that they, “were forced to hire less experienced workers and train them,” and 41 percent reported, “offering increased wages due to skill shortages.

·         Employers reported that they had relatively more positions at lower education and experience levels and fewer at higher levels as compared to 2013 and previous surveys. These responses likely are indicative of a tightening labor market.

·         Overall, 37 percent of the jobs represented in this year’s survey were available to individuals with short-term training, defined as high school plus six months of industry-specific training. Employers reported that 56 percent of the jobs they offered were on an established pathway to advancement through performance or further training. The vast majority, (98%) of employers, responded that they had some mechanism in place for employee development ranging from informal on-the-job training to tuition reimbursement programs.

·         Forty percent of employers reported requiring drug screens for all jobs within their organizations. Likewise, 61 percent of employers required background checks for all jobs. The survey also asked employers a series of statements reflecting their position on hiring felons who had completed their sentence or probation. Only 13 percent responded that they would hire a former felon for any jobs for which they qualified. Twenty-six percent reported that they would not hire a felon under any circumstances. The remaining responses indicated that it depended upon the nature of the felony or the specific job.


“We are certainly encouraged to see continued growth in hiring, but also note the increasing difficulty that employers are having in finding a qualified workforce in a tightening labor market,” said Steve Long, St. Louis Community College’s associate vice chancellor for Workforce Solutions. “At the same time, we know, and the report supports, that many of our citizens are experiencing barriers and frustration in finding employment opportunities with a future.”


Employment and Education Experiences of Economically Disadvantaged Populations

As part of the State of the St. Louis Workforce, the college conducted focus group interviews of participants in four leading programs, preparing economically disadvantaged populations for education or work. The findings from those interviews include:

·         Participants have strong emotional catalysts.
“My motivation comes from seeing the condition of my people…it’s not about me...just because I make it doesn’t mean my peers will make it.”

·         Participants have frustrations with job search process and barriers to reaching goals.
“Everything on the resume doesn’t define the person; candidates should be allowed to say who they really are.”

·         Participants cite the need more employer support.
“Programs do a lot of great things, but they have to push for more connections to jobs.”


“I would encourage everyone to download the full report and absorb the information that it contains,” Nunn said. “The data it provides is invaluable in speaking to the workforce barriers that affect the St. Louis region. The report outlines the growth in middle-skill occupations that require education beyond high school but don’t require a bachelor’s degree. This includes jobs like machinists, welders, medical coders, help desk technicians, and lab technicians.”


Visit STLCC.edu/stlworkforce for more information about this annual regional workforce study or to download this year’s report or any of the reports from previous years.