2015 State of St. Louis Workforce Report

By on August 5, 2015
2015 State of St. Louis Workforce Report

As Associate Vice Chancellor for St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solutions Group I recognize that the College plays a unique role in helping our region meet some of our most persistent economic challenges. In that role we are pleased to present the 2015 State of St. Louis Workforce Report.

Each year since 2009 the College and its research partners have tracked the recovery and growth of our region’s workforce, as well as its continuing challenges, through the research and production of this report. It has provided timely and critical workforce intelligence that has helped St. Louis Community College respond to the needs of our students and employer partners. We also believe that it has provided valuable information to the region’s many public, private and community based organizations who are struggling to prepare or acquire the skilled workforce necessary to drive our economy forward.

This morning St. Louis Community College unveiled the findings of our seventh annual “State of St. Louis Workforce Report.” The key findings from a survey of over 1,100 regional employers include a continued steady increase in hiring with more employers adding workers and fewer decreasing their workforce. Employers now indicate that the shortage of workers with knowledge or skill is now the greatest barrier to expanding their business even exceeding economic conditions. 55% of employers were experiencing a skill shortage and when asked how they are addressing this shortage most said that they were forced to hire less experienced workers and train them. Up to 70% of employers are still seeing shortcomings in the applicants to their open positions with the top shortcomings cited being poor work ethic and lack of interpersonal skills or communications.

At the same time that employers are needing skilled workers there are many in our community that cannot find or qualify for a job. In this year’s report we asked employers about bridges and barriers to economic opportunity, i.e. a good job.

In terms of bridges we found that, overall, 37% 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% of the jobs they offered were on an established pathway to advancement and 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.

In terms of barriers we found that 40% of employers reported requiring drug screens for all jobs within their organizations while 61% of employers required background checks for all jobs. The survey also found that only 13 % of employers would hire a former felon for any jobs for which they qualified. 26% 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.

As part of this year’s report we included our findings of The Employment and Educational Experiences of Economically Disadvantaged Populations compiled through focus group interviews of participants in four local programs serving targeted populations to hear their experiences and perspectives about barriers to opportunity and strategies to overcome them. Through the help of Dr. Rod Nunn, Interim President of St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, and Lou Gerst, Research and Assessment Practice Leader for the Workforce Solutions Group, we found that participants had strong emotional catalysts, primarily faith, family and community as well as a strong affinity to their programs. At the same time, they have significant frustrations with the job search process and the barriers they face. They understood what it takes to be a successful candidate for a job but would welcome more employer support. They were aware of the importance of finishing school and closing the achievement gap but also recognized the barriers.

Today we began an important discussion about how businesses in our region can find ways to fill their open positions, overcome skill gaps, and consider how their organizations can build bridges or remove barriers to economic opportunity. To those who attended our event at our Forest Park Campus, thank you for being part of the conversation!

I would greatly appreciate your help in continuing this conversation in the community, specifically in your circles of influence. If you see fit, please share the report with your personal and professional networks, or take part in the ongoing discussion about workforce training online at our blog and news site http://workforcesolutions.stlcc.edu/.

The report may be downloaded at www.stlcc.edu/STLworkforce.

About Steve Long

Steve Long is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Workforce Solutions for St. Louis Community College. Steve leads a successful corporate services unit providing contract training to St. Louis area employers since 1984, a community services unit providing grant based workforce and employment services including services to the local Workforce Investment Board, and many collaborative workforce development projects with a variety of community based organizations. He has previously served as the Director of Workforce and Community Development, the Director of Career and Technical Education and the Associate Director for the Center for Business, Industry and Labor of St. Louis Community College. Before coming to the College, Steve served as the Director of Industrial Education for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education where he led the development of Missouri’s first customized training program. He has also served in the Governor’s office as a budget and policy analyst for workforce development and directed employment and training centers under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). Steve brings over 35 years of experience in job training and workforce development to his profession. He has been a Board member and officer of many professional organizations including President of the National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE), one of the workforce councils under the American Association for Community Colleges (AACC).

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