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STLCC Unveils 2018 State of the St. Louis Workforce Report

The St. Louis region’s businesses struggle to fill positions in an economy where job openings exceed unemployment rates – in the Midwest by 20 percent.

These hiring challenges and employers’ shifting needs in such a dynamic economic environment are at the core of the analysis in St. Louis Community College’s 10th annual State of the St. Louis Workforce Report, which was released Aug. 8 at the college’s Forest Park campus.

“No matter how you look at the data, we have a serious workforce gap,” said Jeff Pittman, Ph.D., STLCC chancellor. “We must work together to solve this problem.”

For 2018, the college focused the survey and report on three industry sectors that are of critical importance to the economy for the next 10 years and beyond.

  1. Information Technology is represented by technology-intensive services, employing more than 140,000 workers in the region. Average wages exceed $90,000.
  2. Financial Services has become an important factor in the changing profile of the economy with first- and second-tier corporate locations established in St. Louis.
  3. Health Care – with nearly 165,000 local employees – provided a crucial employment lifeline during the difficult recession years and continues to grow to serve an aging population.

STLCC Workforce Solutions Group’s survey of 1,246 local businesses revealed shifts in reported workforce issues and sector-specific nuances compared to 2017 all-industry findings.

Highlights of the 2018 three-sector findings compared to those reported in 2017’s all-sector report include:

Job openings available at every skill level

  • Even though more employers in the three target sectors report more positions at the high-skill level, the report makes clear that there are positions at both the middle-skill and low-skill levels that provide opportunities for a wide range of job seekers.

More dynamic hiring decisions in past 12 months

  • Fewer employers maintained steady levels of employment within their firms.
  • More employers increased employment in the past 12 months.
  • Simultaneously, more employers reported decreasing employment.

More dynamic hiring plans for coming 12 months

  • More employers anticipate increases in the next 12 months; these responses were strongest in technology-intensive services and health care.
  • More employers intended to add employees by hiring full-time workers and relatively fewer planned to hire part-time workers. The choice of hiring contract workers increased to 20 percent of employers, driven by health care employers, of whom 30 percent indicated hiring contractors as a method of adding employees.

Applicant shortcomings: a barrier to filling open positions

  • Employers in the three target sectors are still seeing shortcomings in their job applicants – led by poor work habits at 48 percent – but they are being reported with less frequency than in past years. With one exception, each sector reported poor work habits, lack of communication or interpersonal skills, lack of teamwork or collaboration and lack of critical thinking and problem solving as their top choices for shortcomings.

Shifts in how employers train employees

  • More employers report using in-house classroom training, flexible schedule for continuing education and online courses as compared to previous surveys. The shift away from on-the-job training to more formal methods was led by the health care sector, with 75 percent offering employees a flexible schedule for continuing education.

The report also features several initiatives STLCC has undertaken to educate and train individuals for opportunities in these different industries.

  • Information Technology — STLCC has become a leader in cyber defense education with associate degree programs that provide experienced professionals to fill skills gaps. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated STLCC as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education (CAE2Y). The Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree in Network Engineering – Security Focus was the first program to meet the designation criteria. STLCC has also launched an AAS and certificate program in cybersecurity. These new programs in cyber defense, also part of the national designation, presented their first graduates this spring. In addition, the Certificate of Proficiency in Network Security provides students with infrastructure-specific curriculum in cybersecurity.
  • Financial Services — STLCC has launched the Customer Information Support Specialist (CISS) program to meet the demand for technology-driven, middle-skill jobs in customer service, data entry and administrative support. This 12-week program includes Microsoft Office applications, communications skills, customer service and a range of soft skills that lead to success in the workplace. The curriculum includes modules on cybersecurity and financial literacy to better prepare students for the workplace. CISS launches students on a true career pathway; program graduates are eligible to receive 11 credit hours at STLCC toward a computer applications degree.
  • Health Care — To provide facilities aligned with the importance of health care to the region, STLCC has begun construction of the Center for Nursing and Health Sciences at Forest Park. It will be a state-of-the-art learning facility featuring the latest technology. Situated in proximity to several major hospital campuses, the new building will allow STLCC to expand popular programs, serve more students and expand established partnerships with health care employers.

STLCC also has worked with state and federal partners to establish successful new accelerated training programs in health care, including medical assistant, patient care technician and community health worker. Because of the close working relationship with employer partners, these programs have resulted in exceptional completion and employment rates.

The State of St. Louis Workforce Report is co-sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank. STLCC’s Workforce Solutions Group and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center compiled labor market information from survey data, public and private sources for the report. The event’s media partner, The Nine Network of Public Media, taped the event, portions of which will be shared as part of its American Graduate Initiative in coming months.

To download the full 2018 report, click here.

To download a four-page infographic summary, click here.