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Study spotlights hard-to-fill positions

John Seelmeyer

Jobs in auto repair, the construction trades, manufacturing and health care are among the most difficult to fill in northern Nevada, says a study to be released in coming weeks.

And the Occupational Outlook Report published by NevadaWorks provides statistical underpinnings for a couple of pieces of conventional wisdom:

* Skilled trades often provide wages just as good or even better than positions that require a college degree.

* Jobs that provide low pay and few benefits are those in which turnover is highest.

The Occupational Outlook Report, which takes a deep look at 20 types of jobs in northern Nevada, is based on surveys of employers.

The jobs covered in this year’s survey range from auditors and accountants to gaming dealers and from computer programmers to maids and housekeepers.

For each occupation, the study provides data on wages, benefits, supply and demand and the recruitment strategies used by employers.

Among the findings of the 80-page report:

* Eighty-percent of employers say it’s difficult to find auto service technicians who meet their hiring standards.

* Nearly 80 percent of employers say they have a hard time landing qualifying plumbers and pipefitters, and 67 percent say they have a difficult time finding qualified electricians.

* Machinists and tool-and-die makers also are in high demand, and most employers say they’re having trouble filling the positions.

* The much-reported shortage of registered nurses and other health-care workers continues unabated.

Nearly all employers say it’s difficult to find qualified candidates.

A similar study last year looked at 20 different jobs many of them computerrelated, said Tom Fitzgerald, the chief executive officer of NevadaWorks.

He said the agency is likely to continue looking at 20 new jobs a year, then updating the outlook for each set on a three-year cycle.

NevadaWorks, which acts directs the use of federal jobs-training funds in the state, conducts the study so it knows what skills are needed in the market.

“Employers have said, ‘This is what we need.’Why would we train for anything else?” Fitzgerald said.

The study’s findings are used, too, by Western Nevada Community College and Truckee Meadows Community College to fine-tune their course offerings.

High school counselors use the study to guide students into careers.

The findings also are used by economic development specialists as they work with companies interested in moving to the region.

(The study as well as last year’s survey of 20 occupations is available for free download at the NevadaWorks Web site http://www.nevadaworks.com.

In addition, the study is available at libraries.) Along with the outlook for individual occupations, Fitzgerald said the study provides some insight into the flow of workers through the labor market.

Take hotel housekeepers, for instance.

The study finds that those jobs start at less than $15,000 a year, often pay less than $15,000 a year to workers with three years experience, and provide few benefits.

And turnover is high: Three quarters of the employers surveyed said they’ve hired in the past year, and most of the hiring was the result of employees leaving a company.

At the same time, Fitzgerald said the study provides support to the notion that a college degree isn’t the only path to a good-paying job.

Electricians, for example, aren’t required to attend college.

Yet the study finds that nearly 60 percent of experienced electricians who’ve worked for the company for at least three years earn more than $45,000 a year and 29 percent are earning more than $55,000.

A similar study taking a look at 37 occupations in rural areas of northern Nevada is due out later this year, Fitzgerald said.