As St. Louis’ underemployment rate drops, employers are finding it hard to find employees with the right skill sets
Since 2009, St. Louis Community College and its partners, under the leadership of its Workforce Solutions Group, have annually assessed the state of the St. Louis region’s workforce. They do this by gauging the experiences and perceptions of employers and job seekers and accessing the most current labor market information from public and private sources.
During the last year, numbers and metrics have varied around the region. The State of the St. Louis Workforce measured the shortage of qualified applicants in specialized areas such as STEM and in the general labor market. Employer surveys have consistently identified shortcoming of job applicants, particularly in the soft skills (communication, language, and interpersonal skills).
These and other indicators signal that our region is moving from a “slack” labor market during a high period of unemployment, to a tighter market as underemployment has declined, creating challenges for employers in finding a skilled workforce.
Considering certain events from this past year, not every community is benefitting from an improving economy, thus the theme of the 2015 report: Economic Opportunity Gaps in the St. Louis Workforce. In light of this theme, the State of the St. Louis Workforce added topics regarding employment practices that created bridges or barriers to economic opportunity, as well as took questions from the audience.
The report was presented by Alan Spell, Research Manager at the Missouri Economic Research Information Center, followed by a panel discussion. The panel included Dr. John Gaal, Director of Training and Workforce Development at the Carpenter’s District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity; Eric Henderson, Area Human Resource Manager for UPS – Central Plains District; Michael McMillan, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis; Kathy Obsborn, Executive Director of the Regional Business Council with commentator Dr. Roderick Nunn, Interim President of the St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.
The audience then had the opportunity to address the panel in a question and answer session and later broke out in Community of Interest Breakout Discussions, which addressed topics such as the achievement gap, the skills gap, the information gap and the perception gap.