RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

Bee file, 2013. Students crowd booths at Cosumnes River College's internship fair.

Job Front: Employers concerned with California talent shortage

Published: Monday, Apr. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 22, 2013 - 9:20 am

It keeps California employers awake at night: How to find workers with the skills needed to do the job.

It's a vexing dilemma as human resources researchers in Sacramento on Thursday showed, indicating the state's employers are as worried as ever about finding the top talent they need.

"There is a very strong concern. What keeps them up at night is recruiting and retaining top talent," said Alexander Alonso, vice president for research at the suburban Washington, D.C-based Society for Human Resource Management or SHRM.

Members of the group gathered for the SHRM State Legislative Conference at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel in Sacramento.

Job applicants' skills gaps run the gamut from critical thinking to professionalism and work ethic to leadership, according to "The Ongoing Impact of the Recession – California Recruiting and Skill Gaps," SHRM's survey of California employers released Thursday.

"In California, candidates don't have the right skills mix: 50 percent of California employers are experiencing that very issue," Alonso said.

Among the findings:

• 65 percent of organizations hiring full-time employees say they are having difficulties recruiting for specific job openings.

• Half of organizations said candidates do not have the right skills for the job, while 42 percent said candidates lacked the needed work experience.

• Nearly six in 10 employers polled said they saw skill gaps in job applicants' critical thinking and problem-solving skills; nearly half (49 percent) cited professionalism and work ethic as concerns, while 41 percent said applicants lacked necessary leadership skills.

But employers' frustration could be a boon to job seekers with the appropriate skills.

Alonso said the dearth of skilled candidates is causing a "war for talent," particularly in the manufacturing and service sectors, and in high-skilled professions such as medicine, engineering and science.

Meanwhile, replacing the ranks of retiring baby boomers also looms large.

The battle to fill jobs could mean higher salary offers for coveted candidates as employers compete for talent.

Salaries for new hires didn't grow much during the recession, but more than a third of surveyed employers said that qualified candidates were not in their salary ranges or that competing offers from other firms made hiring more difficult.

"You have to be more competitive as an employer," Alonso said.

The education and training issues the findings pose are sobering, but there are solutions, said Mark Schmit, executive director of the SHRM Foundation.

He said developing partnerships between education and business, expanding apprenticeships and other job and skills training, and a renewed emphasis on hiring military veterans are all ways to help employers close the skills gap.

Already, there are examples of the partnerships.

In Richmond on Friday, the Labor Department awarded $15 million to a consortium of 10 East Bay community colleges for, among other things, training in manufacturing, logistics and engineering.

The award is part of nearly $475 million in federal funding to create and expand partnerships between community colleges and businesses to teach and train workers.

Find the survey at www.shrm.org, then select "Research & Metrics."

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Contact Job Front at dvsmith@sacbee.com.

Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

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