Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tech Skill Warning: If Firms Can't Find Workers Here, They'll Go Elsewhere

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tech Skill Warning: If Firms Can't Find Workers Here, They'll Go Elsewhere

Article excerpt

Of all the industries complaining about a shortage of skilled workers, technology companies seem to gripe the loudest.

That's true in St. Louis Community College's annual look at the region's workforce. This year's report focuses on information technology, health care and financial services.

The college surveyed 1,246 employers in the three industries, which account for much of St. Louis' recent job growth. As you might expect in an economy that, nationally, now has more job openings than unemployed workers, many companies were dissatisfied with the quality of the hiring pool.

Thirty-five percent of health care firms and 38 percent of financial firms said they were experiencing a shortage of skilled applicants. That jumped to 61 percent in tech services, where jobs often require industry certifications.

Tech firms also stood out when employers were asked what they're doing about the skill shortage. The top responses in finance and health care included training inexperienced workers and offering higher wages.

In technology, firms' No. 1 answer was that they were hiring from outside the United States. That may become difficult if the government continues to make H-1B visas harder to obtain.

The No. 2 answer was more shocking: 42 percent of tech employers selected "none of the above." In an industry that complains of a severe skill shortage, nearly half of firms aren't doing anything specific about it.

"This may reflect a reticence by technology-intensive services employers to invest in employee development in a very talent-competitive industry," the report says.

For Hart Nelson, the community college's associate vice chancellor for workforce solutions, that non-response poses a particular challenge to places such as St. Louis. "It really means these jobs may get created overseas or somewhere else," he said. "The jobs will go somewhere. …

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