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How can we better match our jobseekers with open positions?

Tom Fitzgerald

To some people, it seems that an economic recovery is bypassing our region because the area unemployment level remains so high. After all they state, “If there were good jobs available, wouldn’t the jobless rate be much lower?”

On the other hand, local businesses participating in the recovery with growing sales often have job openings and many continue to complain about problems in hiring qualified individuals. “If the unemployed really wanted jobs, wouldn’t I be able to hire a competent staffer?”

Are these problems due to poor skills or poor communication? Do people know what certifications are required for some jobs and where to get training? Are there a growing number of job openings or are these more of the same low-level turn-over positions that seldom get filled?

To satisfy my curiosity about local job openings, I used a program called Labor Insight to research jobs posted online in the Reno/Sparks Metropolitan Statistical Area for December of 2011. During that month, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported 25,547 unemployed individuals in Washoe County.

My research revealed 2,115 valid Statistical Area jobs were advertised during the month (These were online-only posted jobs that were parsed for duplicates and obvious come-ons). If these jobs were filled by unemployed individuals, then the number of unemployed in December would have dropped by 8.3 percent and the local unemployment rate would have been 10.9 percent rather than the reported 11.9 percent.

So great, these jobs were open but what kind of jobs were they? Some of the listed titles included first-line supervisors, sales reps, retail sales, heavy truck drivers, executive assistants, material movers, registered nurses, maintenance and repair, occupational therapists, application software developers, maids, mechanical engineers, medical assistants, automotive mechanics, electricians, tellers, machinists, graphic designers, bartenders, pharmacists, childcare workers and veterinary technologists. In other words, a true cross section of jobs from the diverse industries housed here.

As to top baseline skills required (in descending order) communication, training, writing, organizational, English, Excel, customer service, leadership, office and typing. These skills are certainly widely spread through our community and probably very current with the unemployed.

Certifications in greatest demand included first aid CPR, basic cardiac life support, registered nurse, casino gaming license, insurance license, commercial driver’s license. Thirty seven percent required at least a high school degree while the remaining 63 percent required a four-year or higher college degree.

So the jobs sound good, the skills and education match our local workers. What kinds of employers posted these jobs in December? Most are well known and included Renown, UNR, Boomtown Casino, State of Nevada, IGT, Cost Plus, Gap, Lowes, Pacific Cheese, UPS, Macy’s, Sears, Les Schwab, HCR Manorcare, B of A, Harbor Freight Tools, General Electric, NV Energy, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Waste Management, Hamilton Company, Charter, Con-Way, DRI, Honeywell, and Urban Outfitters.

The results of my research were comforting. There are good jobs with strong companies available. The problem seems to be that over 2,000 jobs were available in December to over 25,000 unemployed individuals and the twain have not met. This indicates to me that the old methods of filling jobs are not working and changes must occur.

Businesses should make sure the qualifications they seek are well-defined, easy to understand and communicated throughout the community. Job information to area training providers and community colleges as well as state operated one-stops needs to be upgraded so such organizations can promote and provide appropriate job candidates to the companies. Written job opening descriptions require clarity and no ambiguity.

Individuals need to prepare resumes that speak 21st century skills and experiences, and are based on facts and any learning gained during the unemployed period. The resumes must offer businesses an opportunity to understand the well trained workforce that lives here and that is ready to bring truly great skills to all employers.

If employers and the unemployed make the simple changes above, our unemployment level will accelerate its decline and our economy will be much more positive.

Tom Fitzgerald of Reno is business development director of Burning Glass Technologies. Contact him at tfitzgerald@burning-glass.com or 828-7194.