Benefits returning to favor

Facing a continued tight labor market, northern Nevada employers appear more willing to pick up the cost of employee benefits such as health insurance.

At the very least, an annual occupational study by Nevadaworks suggests that employers no longer are cutting benefits even as health-insurance costs rise.

"Businesses realize that if they're going to get and keep well-qualified employees, they'll need to pay for them," said Tom Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of Nevadaworks.

"It's cheaper to pay some of those costs now than have constant turnover."

And the agency's 2004 Occupational Outlook Report found that regional employers are strongly bullish.

Thirty percent of the companies surveyed hired more employees in the past year to handle increased business and 90 percent expect their sales to grow or remain stable during the next two years.

"Across the board, people say that their business looks good.

They're anticipating hiring," Fitzgerald said last week.

"This is an awesome place to be.

Hang on tight.

You ain't seen nothing yet, and the growth is exploding."

Nevadaworks, which is responsible for workforce development in northern Nevada, each year studies the outlook for 20 occupations in the region.

This year's survey included the logistics industry jobs such as shipping clerk, order-fillers and forklift drivers as well as public safety positions, some medicalrelated jobs such as pharmacy technician and medical transcriptionist, financial positions such as loan officers and bank tellers, and teachers.

The outlook is distributed to economic development agencies, schools and libraries.

A PDF version is available on Nevadaworks'Web site, www.nevadaworks.


Employers have found a variety of uses for the study, which has examined 60 major occupations during its three-year history.

Ozburn-Hessey Logistics' operation in Sparks, for instance, uses the data to compare its wage rates against others in the logistics industry, said Tom Brassfield, a senior vice president.

The data is particularly valuable, Brassfield said, because it's derived entirely from northern Nevada businesses.

For forklift drivers, for instance, the survey found 78 percent of the reporting companies pay new hires $15,000 to $24,000 a year.

The remaining companies pay less than $15,000 to inexperienced operators.

Nevadaworks, meanwhile, uses the surveys to determine what sorts of jobs training programs it should fund.

The agency acts as a conduit between the federal government and local training organizations such as community colleges.

As Fitzgerald studied the survey's findings, he was struck by several findings:

* Despite the region's reputation as a 24-hour workplace, 70 percent of the occupations surveyed reflect a traditional eight-hour-day, 40-hour-week work schedule.

* Persons looking for high-growth, good-paying jobs that don't require a college degree might examine some positions in health-related fields.

Among those jobs: Pharmacy technician, with pay in the range of $25,000 to $34,000 after three years, and medical transcriptionists, who can earn $35,000 to $44,000 a year with experience.

* That old advice of high school counselors is true: Entry-level positions that require little education don't have much potential for advancement or income growth.Workers who want to make more money need to upgrade their skills.

The survey was conducted by phone, primarily during the first quarter of this year.

Responses from 15 employers were required in most instances before Nevadaworks reported the results for an occupation.


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