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Workers hot commodity in local labor market

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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

Springfield has the lowest unemployment rate it has experienced in 24 years, according to Lynne Haggerman, owner and resource director of Career Services Inc.

The problem is not finding jobs, Haggerman said, it is finding qualified people to fill them.

Currently in Springfield the unemployment rate is about 3.2 percent, according to Tom Schwandt, veterans representative at the Missouri Employment Security Office. Four percent is considered full employment, Schwandt added.

Schwandt, Haggerman and other employment specialists all named clerical and industrial jobs as high on the list of categories needing people.

Paul Sherard, owner/manager of Snelling and Snelling, also indicated that technicians, with computer skills, represent the hottest segment of the job market.

Salaries have gone up to attract the right people, Sherard said, and in some cases employers are taking on people with less background than desired to get positions filled.

Placement of management trainees has not changed much, according to Sherard, but the need for accounting and administrative people at the technical level has caused some companies to up the ante to get good people.

Traditionally, Springfield has been behind other job markets in salary ranges, but it is getting closer due to the demand for people with certain skills, Sherard said.

On the other side of the coin, on a national level, mergers have caused people to be in the job market that never expected to be there. People with the right skills are out there, but the key is to attract them to this area, which is still lagging in salary ranges compared to other areas, he added.

Patty Clemons, vice president of operations with Express Person-nel Services, said there is a shortage of workers across the board. The associates her company sends into the field are demanding higher wages and more benefits and getting them.

Express Personnel works with about 400 companies, supplying personnel on an evaluation basis. The system gives both the employer and the employee a chance to see if the job is right for the individual and vice-versa.

"If all goes well, everybody wins," Clemons said.

Clemons added that there is a huge demand for housekeeping workers. Her company retains a pool of part-time workers who can designate their hours of availability. The system gives some flexibility to the work environment and provides a labor pool for companies needing intermittent help in this field.

To meet the challenge of finding quality people for the jobs available, Haggerman said business owners must totally rethink the way they recruit and hire.

"If you have a product, you tell about its advantages and benefits," she said.

Companies must now use that same strategy in wooing new employees into their companies.

Where a company may once have asked what the prospective employee has to offer the business, they must now demonstrate what the company has to offer the employee.

Employers having a problem with attracting the right people haven't addressed the issue, according to Haggerman.

"Be the employer of choice," she said.

Haggerman has offered a seminar to companies who wish to confront the issue and change their employment tactics. The first session was scheduled for April 8 and the course will be repeated in the fall.

Smaller meetings will also be scheduled in-house through-out the year for business owners who need assistance with their hiring strategies.

"The hottest

issue in 1998

is retaining quality employees," Haggerman said.

Salary is just one of many issues involved, she added.

Like other employment professionals, Haggerman said that the lower-end service industry has always been known for a high turnover.

No one in the employment industry has the answer to this problem.

However, the Missouri Employment Security Office has an answer both for people in search of a job and anxious employers seeking the right person, according to Schwandt.

Applicants can browse the Internet to find local, state and national jobs available in every field imaginable. And employers can place orders for particular skills and review applicants on the web site established by the state office.

The site, complete with graphics, also offers an abundance of statistical information to both job seekers and employers about national averages in certain fields, employment rates, and other pertinent data.

The address for the state office's web site is www.works.state.mo.us.

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