Monthly Archives: June 2017

Which skills do New York employers have the most difficulty finding?

Part six of an ongoing series based on our recent PPI report: Bridging the STEM skills gap: Employer/educator collaboration in New York

Over the years, when asked what skills they have had difficulty finding in job candidates, New York employers consistently point to the professional skills that are required in all kinds of workplaces.  In response to Public Policy Institute surveys in both 2014 and 2017, more than half of employers reported high or moderate difficulty finding critical thinking, communications, and problem-solving skills. The figure below shows that, in the 2017 survey, more than half also reported high or moderate difficulty finding candidates with time management skills, and—notably—multiple respondents wrote in that they have difficulty finding employees who are dependable, even though that was not listed as a response option.

Stanley S. Litow of IBM underlines the importance of these traits in a career-ready workforce.  “We’ve had a misnomer for the last decade or more, referring to the job skills required across the labor force as ‘soft skills,’” he says.  “These are not soft skills, they’re essential skills—like writing, problem-solving, presentation skills.  These are the flexible skills required in the workplace.” P-TECH Leadership Council Director Robin Willner agrees.  “To ensure students develop professional skills, those have to be addressed deliberately, with opportunities for students to practice and master them,” she says.

While shortages in professional skills were most pervasive, employers reported that STEM-specific skills and qualifications were the toughest to find.  Almost a quarter of executives reported “high difficulty” finding candidates with the necessary scientific, engineering, and technical skills.  Half reported moderate or high difficulty finding candidates skilled in using technology, and close to 30% reported moderate or high difficulty finding candidates with other STEM skills such as data analysis and applied math.  This is consistent with previous research; for example, on the 2014 Public Policy Institute survey, more than half of employers reported difficulty finding workers with data analysis and applied math skills, and more than 20% of employers found it “very difficult” to do so. Similarly, a 2014 nationwide survey by the Business Roundtable and Change the Equation found that CEOs had particular difficulty finding candidates with STEM skills.

A 2014 nationwide survey fourn that CEOs had particular finding candidates with STEM skills.

As for which qualifications were most difficult to find in job candidates, the largest number of employers mentioned bachelor’s degrees in engineering.  Related entries included Professional Engineering license, Registered Architect license, and master’s degree in engineering.  Numerous employers wrote in particular manufacturing skills and qualifications that do not necessarily require a bachelor’s degree, including:  sourcing and production quality, blueprints, mechanical skills, hand tool use, Fluorescent Penetrant Inspection (FPI) certification, ceramics, welding, and brazing.  Nursing, human services, and health-related qualifications were sought at the bachelor’s level and below, while accounting credentials were sought at the bachelor’s level and higher.  Several employers reported a difficult time finding candidates with bachelor’s degrees combined with the right type of work experience.  Computer science degrees and IT security certifications were also sought.

These findings are broadly consistent with a 2015 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which found demand for STEM employees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels in information technology fields (including particularly high demand for software developers in New York), and demand below the bachelor’s level in manufacturing and the skilled trades, including machinists and technicians.

Over the coming weeks, our blog series will look at how New York employers are partnering with education institutions to address this skills gap. 

Read part five of the series here.

Which STEM jobs are hardest to fill in New York?

Part five of an ongoing series based on our recent PPI report: Bridging the STEM skills gap: Employer/educator collaboration in New York

Across the state, New York employers responding to a recent Public Policy Institute survey reported difficulty filling STEM positions, and they project that these workforce shortages will persist over the coming decade.

The hardest jobs to fill are skilled production vacancies, according to this study.  One quarter of survey respondents reported moderate or high difficulty filling positions in this category, and 12% reported high difficulty.  Engineering is a close second, with 20% of respondents reporting moderate or high difficulty filling positions.  Fourteen percent of respondents reported moderate or high difficulty filling information technology positions, and 10% reported moderate or high difficulty filling positions in mathematics occupations.  In all of these STEM categories, respondents were almost equally split between “high” and “moderate” difficulty. At least a handful of employers noted difficulty filling positions in each of the other listed STEM categories—environmental science, social science, architecture, and health—and several wrote in additional categories in which they were having trouble filling jobs, including telecommunications, machine operators, and technicians.

STEM positions comprise four of the top five categories of positions that New York employers are finding most difficult to fill.  Seventeen percent of employers reported moderate or high difficulty filling non-STEM positions, with the bulk of those saying that they had “moderate” difficulty filling non-STEM positions.

STEM positions difficult to fill

New York’s employers do not expect the skills gap to go away anytime soon. When asked whether they anticipated new or continuing skills shortages over the next five to ten years, survey respondents identified several areas for concern.  Skilled production is the category in which they anticipate the most severe ongoing shortage. Bruce Hamm, Director of Business Engagement at the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, points out that this is consistent with national data.  “The average age of a skilled worker in manufacturing nationally is 56 years old,” he says. Taking into account both retirements and expansion in the manufacturing sector, a 2015 study projects a shortage of 2 million workers between 2015 and 2025.

Employers responding to the Public Policy Institute survey also predict severe shortages in engineering and information technology occupations. They anticipate a more moderate shortage in mathematics occupations.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are the same top four workforce categories in which employers reported the highest difficulty filling jobs currently.  Employers are more optimistic about such occupations as social science and architecture.

Dan Bower, President of HUNT Engineers, Architects & Land Surveyors, underlined the shortage of engineering skills:  “At HUNT currently, eight out of ten résumés we receive for engineering positions are from non-U.S. citizens.”  In the short term, his 110-person company is considering partnering with an immigration law firm to facilitate obtaining visas and citizenship for these candidates.

Looking ahead to create a pipeline for its future workforce needs, HUNT is partnering with the Greater Southern Tier BOCES STEM Academy, a P-TECH early college high school that opened its doors in September 2016.  At the end of six years, students will graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree and will be given a “first in line” opportunity for job placements with P-TECH corporate mentors.  In future installments of this series, we will take a closer look at the business-led P-TECH initiative.

Read part four of the series here.