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Seeking good workers

John Seelmeyer

A couple of years ago, most everyone in northern Nevada had a job, and employers had trouble finding good people.

Today, a lot more people are looking for jobs but employers still have trouble finding good people.

“The good people are the hard ones to find. There may be people out there, just not good people,” says

Kimberlee Tolkien, executive director of marketing at Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.

Part of the problem, employers say, arises because the workers who lost their jobs during the downturn that began in 2006 often don’t have the skills that are needed in the industries that are hiring today.

In the past year, for instance, the number of construction jobs in the Reno-Sparks area declined by about

2,200 a decline that accounted for more than half of the increase in jobseekers during the same time.

But those folks don’t necessarily have the skills that make them a good fit in fields such as retail or health services, which have added jobs in northern Nevada even as construction has declined.

“There are definitely more people in the pool, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to find the right people for your company,” says Steve Conine, who owns the Reno office of the staffing agency

Accustaff as well as the personnel consulting firm TalentFramework.

The rising jobless rate in northern Nevada 6 percent in Reno-Sparks in April compared with 4.5 percent a year earlier sometimes means employers need to sort through many more resumes to find the workers

they want.

Waste Management, for instance, recently drew 200 applicants to a job fair that had drawn only 25

applicants a year earlier.

In the past, those applicants might not have considered taking a job with the company, says spokesman Justin Caporusso.

“Since the economy has slowed, the number of qualified applicants for each position has gone up, providing Waste Management with a larger group of qualified applicants to choose from,” Caporusso says.

Some of those applicants may be looking to make big career shifts sometimes downward as hard times linger in sectors such as residential real estate.

“We’re seeing people such as Realtors applying for lower-level positions,” says Gena Jones, assistant vice president for human resources at the University of Nevada, Reno. She says the total number of applicants at UNR has remained stable through good times and bad.

Employers, the workers compensation carrier, also has seen little change in the number of applicants hoping to join the staff of 200 at its Reno headquarters.

But the mix of applicants has changed in some subtle ways, says John Nelson, senior vice president and chief administrative officer.

It is relatively rare these days, he says, for Employers to get a resume from an applicant who already is employed elsewhere and is testing the water. Most people who have jobs, he says, appear to be hunkered down. Few want to take the risk of moving to a new job and leaving themselves exposed in case the new

employer decides to lay off recently hired workers.

Information technology jobs remain among the most difficult to fill, employers say. That’s unchanged from the boom days of the region’s economy.

The challenge is particularly daunting, Employers’ Nelson says, when the company is recruiting IT professionals from other markets. They sometimes are concerned that few career alternatives exist in northern Nevada if they decide to change jobs.

But the list of hard-to-fill jobs stretches across the employment spectrum.

Bob Lathrop of the Reno office of Hire Dynamics, a staffing company that focuses much of its attention on logistics and call-center jobs in the region, says jobs in those industries sometimes can prove difficult to fill if they involve offbeat shifts or a challenging commute.

And workers skilled on some types of specialized warehouse equipment also are difficult to find, he says.

Waste Management’s Caporusso says bilingual administrative employees especially with good experience and skills continue to be challenging positions to fill.

“The economic slowdown is not producing any more of these particular candidates,” he says.


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