Job Market: The need for employees with specialized skills spikes

Chris Burkhard
Chris Burkhard, president of Outside-In, a group of recruitment firms that place workers with clients, goes over jobs that need filling with Debbie Fincher (center) and Karesa Blagrove.

By Kathy Canavan

With Labor Day approaching, the job with the most openings posted in Delaware is tractor-trailer driver.

So far this year, 3,627 tractor-trailer driver openings have been posted.

Nurses are next, with 2,104 openings, according to the state’s Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information.

Other jobs that need filling include various computer jobs (1,935), retail salespersons (1,467), computer systems analysts (1,291), customer-service representatives (1,228), computer-application software developers (1,178), retail supervisors (1,103), financial managers (1,093), and computer support specialists (1,032).

The state average wage, counting bonuses, for the first quarter of 2015 — the latest quarter available — was $14,370. That’s $65 less than the first quarter of 2014.

Workers who have the skills employers need — especially numbers people — have plenty of options, placement counselors said. That especially includes accountants, construction workers, STEM workers, salespersons and those with professional degrees.

Chris Burkhard
Chris Burkhard: “It seems the market is finally giving people a chance to pursue their career goals.”

Chris Burkhard, president of Outside-In Companies, a group of recruiting and placement firms, said the growing employment market would finally give unemployed and underemployed workers the chance to follow their career plan.

“We are starting to see more opportunities, not that the recession is behind us fully, but people are willing to step back away from a job and try again. I think people are starting to have enough confidence in the market to consider a move from their current jobs,” Burkhard said. “We had the awful 2008-2009 financial crisis. I think there are a lot of people who are unemployed or doing things they don’t really like. I think that’s always a mistake. We’re coming out of an era when people were just happy to have work. It seems the market is finally giving people a chance to pursue their career goals.”

Burkhard supervises
Burkhard supervises.

Hiring slowed up a bit in August, but it’s not the economy. It’s vacations.

“It happens year after year in August. That’s when the most summer vacations are taken so the hiring process just takes a little longer. It’s not that the jobs aren’t out there. They’re growing exponentially,” said Scott Shorr, director of permanent placement at Robert Half  Finance & Accounting.

Jobs are growing but that doesn’t mean salaries are. “They have gone up a couple percent, but you’re not talking exponential because a lot of people are just happy to have a job.”

Burkhard said there is very little wage inflation now, but he predicted it’s coming eventually. “Your cost-of-living increases have been in the modest category the last three to four years,’’ he said. “Just because there’s a shortage, I don’t believe there’s going to be a reactionary move to raise wages yet.”

Shorr said the jobs picture is getting better day by day. Where there might have been two or three openings for staff accountants and senior accountants making $45,000-$70,000 last year, there are five or six this year.  “I think by this time next year, we’ll be in a very robust environment,” he said.

Asked for an example of a candidate who could cruise right into a job, Shorr said a certified public accounting with public accounting experience would get a glance at before anyone else.

“Anything STEM-related is constantly short — your science, your technology, your engineering, your math,” Burkhard said.  “We’re starting to get shortages in the construction field. Home-building and industrial is picking back up, so it’s going to get worse.”

Rich Kolodgie, Shante Hynson and Heather Pelaez recruit

One job that might be on the endangered list is administrative professional.

“It seems to me, I would not necessarily want to be in a straight administrative role today. With technology, there are just less of these roles,” Burkhard said. “People are doing things themselves or doing without. Receptionists, switchboard operators, secretaries, we don’t get calls. The phone rings for accounting. It rings for marketing.”

Health-care hiring is continuing to grow, Burkhard said, and companies trying to grow their top line are hiring sales employees, and they are also adding human resources managers again.

According to a Robert Half survey, 15 percent of accounting and business professional employers say it is very challenging to find skilled candidates for openings and 53 percent said it is somewhat challenging.  Employers said they use interim assignments to evaluate potential hires. The continued evolution of the regulatory environment is driving hiring for risk, compliance and internal audit professionals. Banks and health-care and energy companies with highly specialized regulatory requirements are seeking job candidates with industry-specific experience.  The survey showed more firms will consider training recent graduates for their specific needs, generally graduates who have internships or volunteer experience on their resumes.

Employers will be looking harder soon, because one-fifth of the nation’s work force is nearing retirement age, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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