The St. Louis region’s employers are facing workforce shortages in key job types, according to the results of a large employer-based survey and report released today by the St. Louis Regional Chamber. Representatives from the business community, educational, and workforce training institutions and community organizations gathered at the Regional Chamber Thursday morning to reveal the Bridging The Talent Gap survey findings. Regional Chamber President & CEO Tom Chulick and other community leaders also issued a call-to-action for businesses, educational institutions, and community organizations to provide more opportunities for students to access in-demand education and training programs.
“The St. Louis region needs more in-depth and meaningful collaboration between higher education institutions and businesses,” said Chulick. “Not just for the benefit of our economy, but also for our residents. We want students to know where the high-wage jobs are, what kind of industries are hiring and how our local colleges, universities and training programs can get them there. If we focus on the data and develop more effective partnerships between businesses and education, we as a region can be responsive and even proactive in addressing workforce gaps.”
The St. Louis region was one of 28 metro areas selected to conduct the “Bridging the Talent Gap” survey and a total of 289 respondents participated. Since “Bridging the Talent Gap's” inception in 2016, St. Louis had the greatest number of respondents ever logged – 24 percent more respondents with usable data than the second most active city. Greg Laposa, Regional Chamber Vice President of Education Strategies, suggests “St. Louis’ high number of respondents demonstrates how critical workforce and talent gaps are to area employers.”
An executive summary and full report are based on surveys administered to Human Resources professionals and other business leaders in the St. Louis region from September 4, 2018 - January 31, 2019. Key findings included:
- Seventy-six percent of survey respondents described the economic conditions in their community as positive. Of the industries most represented in the survey, the finance and insurance sector held the most optimistic view (91 percent).
- Eighty-six percent of respondents reported that their respective companies are preparing for moderate to high growth in the next 3-5 years. Among industries most represented in these categories, 100 percent of the retail, healthcare and construction groups anticipated moderate to fast growth.
- Among all respondents, 94 percent are hiring for full-time positions. Seventy-five percent of employers find it difficult to recruit for certain positions, while 52 percent say it is difficult to retain certain positions.
- Key in-demand positions that area employers found more difficult to fill include engineers, scientists, high-skilled medical professionals and those in the skilled trades. These jobs are those that typically require specialized higher education and/or training, highlighting the need for increased collaboration among businesses and higher education and workforce training organizations.
- Businesses agreed that an educated workforce will help them meet their goals. While more than half of regional businesses (56%) offer financial support to employees to help them pursue their educational goals, many more are willing to partner with higher education institutions in the future (80%).
St. Louis’ low unemployment rate is below the national average, which is great news for job seekers. But the job market can be too tight for industries like technology, health care, and engineering to find enough qualified applicants to fill key jobs. The Regional Chamber called upon businesses, educational institutions and community partners to continue to adopt data-driven workforce strategies and partnerships that align with job demand today and in the future.
“The Regional Chamber has an important role to play in addressing workforce needs in industries that give St. Louis a competitive edge,” said Chulick. “We intend to play a leading role in bringing partners together to collaborate, coordinate and ultimately drive action to bridge our region’s talent gaps.”