Oregon jobless rate high as skilled positions go unfilled
Oregon economist Gail Krumenauer said companies can follow the path of trucking companies by stepping up recruitment and offering more on-the-job training.
The Associated Press
BEND, Ore. — Rick Williams is hiring drivers for his Prineville trucking company, but he could use 20 more and isn't finding them.
"There's just not enough people with the skills we need as an over-the-road truck driving business," said Williams, CEO of Central Oregon Truck Co.
His company spends $10,000 to $15,000 on ads across the country trying to find people who have a commercial driver's license and can pass physicals and driver safety courses to be insured. He has about 190 drivers and would like to have 210 to meet rising demand for moving goods.
Williams is not alone in his difficulty, according to a Bend Bulletin report (http://bit.ly/RtPoH0 ) on businesses struggling to fill jobs that require specialized skills and advanced education despite Oregon's persistent high unemployment rate.
Employers in fields like nursing, physical therapy, auto repair and engineering are hard-pressed to fill openings, a state Employment Department report says.
"It is a little bit surprising on the surface, when you think that there's more than 100,000 unemployed (Oregonians) and 30,000 job vacancies," said Gail Krumenauer, a state economist and one of the report's authors. "But when you think about all the different factors in many of those openings, the minimum education and experience requirements for fields like nursing, those skills aren't easily transferred" from another line of work.
Many of the jobs going unfilled require post-high school education.
While 83 percent of Oregon adults have high school diplomas, just 55 percent have an associate degree or higher, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.
Bend-based RBD Instruments reports hiring one person this year, bringing its workforce to 13, and looking for more. The company makes devices that help researchers and manufacturers analyze layers of atoms on surfaces, part of developing aircraft and biomedical, solar and other devices.
"For companies like ours, we need people with electronics skills and physics or chemistry backgrounds," President and CEO Randy Dellwo said. "Those are hard to find, not just in Central Oregon but nationally."
Krumenauer's report follows a June audit from the Oregon secretary of state that found more training is needed to fill the growing number of "middle-skill" jobs, like bookkeepers, accounting clerks and preschool teachers.
Some of the greatest demand in Central Oregon is for welders, plumbers and mechanics, said Greg Lambert, founder of employment agency Mid Oregon Personnel.
Many mechanics are aging, and there aren't enough younger workers in training, he said. Others have been out of work for years, victims of the housing market crash and a drop-off in demand for repair services, and their skills have faded.
"That's a huge issue, which I see all the time," Lambert said.
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Krumenauer said companies can follow the path of Williams' trucking company by stepping up recruitment and offering more on-the-job training, and community colleges and universities can step in to give workers tools for long-term employment.
Central Oregon Community College is rolling out a series of new programs over the next few years, said Vice President for Instruction Karin Hilgersom, including veterinary technician and entrepreneurial courses.
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