Monday, July 28, 2008

Mainers with technical skills win

It’s time to get technical! Mainers with technical skills, from mechanics to welders to machinists, may be in short supply.

In its annual survey of U.S. employers, Manpower found that jobs requiring specialized skills and experience are the most difficult to fill.

The 2008 Top 10 Hardest Jobs to Fill List looks like this:

1. Engineers
2. Machinists/Machine Operators (10)*
3. Skilled Trades
4. Technicians (4)
5. Sales Representatives (1)
6. Accounting & Finance Staff (8)
7. Mechanics (3)
8. Laborers (9)
9. IT Staff
10. Production Operators
*Rank in 2007 Top 10 Hardest Jobs to Fill

Maine employers and labor market analysts anticipate that the strong demand for what are traditionally hands-on jobs will continue into the foreseeable future. That’s because the U.S.(and Maine in particular) is experiencing what experts call a perfect storm in which trends related to demographics and skills deficits are converging.

Let’s start with the demographics: our population is aging. As the nation’s 76 million Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) leave the workforce, not enough younger people are choosing careers that involve technical skills.

Maine employers require job-specific skills (for example, welding or machinist skills), but they also demand soft skills, like problem solving and communications, plus a strong work ethic and culture traits that fit their company. Unfortunately, Maine employers often find that soft skills, work ethic and culture traits aren’t always present in today’s job candidates.

How can employers – and job-seekers – win in this contemporary world of work?

Progressive Maine employers are looking at short-term and long-term strategies. For the short-term, they are encouraging their current workforce to re-skill and up-skill to stay abreast of changing technologies – and a competitive, global marketplace. These employers are also looking to bring a diverse pool of people into the workforce, including youth, mature workers, women, people of color and people with disabilities. Attracting and keeping this diverse workforce means providing flexibility in work hours and benefits as well as developing a workplace environment that fosters respect among people with different backgrounds.

For the long-term, these employers are developing close partnerships with schools to make sure young people are getting the technical skills, as well as the soft skills, they need for 21st century jobs. They’re opening their doors to internships, job-shadowing and, where appropriate, apprenticeships. All of these are meaningful activities that can give young people a true taste of workplace requirements and help prepare them for employment in Maine’s future workforce.

Job-seekers can get a leg up in today’s talent race by keeping their skills up to date or perhaps switching careers. The contemporary world of work is a challenging place, but Maine employers and job-seekers who pay attention and take action will be the winners.

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