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Help wanted: St. Louis needs larger skilled workforce to grow economy

healp wanted ads in newspaper
photo credit|Innov8social, Flickr, Creative Commons

Job skills are the focus of the 2018 State of the St. Louis Workforce study published Wednesday by the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College.

This year’s report is titled “Help Wanted: A Skilled Workforce. Addressing the Workforce Needs of the St. Louis Economy.

It is the 10th annual survey based on real-time labor market data and a regional phone survey of 1,246 employers in the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area. The MSA includes 16 counties on both sides of the Mississippi River with an estimated population of more than 2.8 million.

This year’s study focuses on three industries: health care, financial services and information technology. These fields are expected to dominate the St. Louis region in terms of employment for the next decade and beyond. And each field requires specialized skills that are in short supply now with unemployment at record lows.

“More employers reported a shortage of skilled applicants in the 2018 survey compared to 2017,” according to the workforce report. “For the third straight year, a shortage of workers with knowledge and skills is the most frequently cited barrier to expanding employment.”

Chancellor Jeff Pittman told St. Louis Public Radio that universities, colleges and the business community need to explore new ways to prepare future employees for the workplace.

“We need to think about all kinds of instructional modalities,” Pittman said. “There are opportunities to collaborate on training that companies are doing and transfer that into academic credits that lead to credentials that employers are requiring for a job. That’s a strategy we can deploy.”

Pittman said that apprenticeships or internships are required for many academic degree programs. He called for new partnerships between community agencies, businesses and academia to find ways to provide those kinds of experiences to the underemployed and unemployed.


Job openings exceed job seekers by 20 percent in the Midwest according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were 47,407 unemployed persons in the St. Louis MSA in April 2018, a reduction of 4,368 or 8.4 percent from the 51,775 unemployed in April 2017.

In response to the State of the St. Louis Workforce survey, employers listed the top shortcomings they found among current applicants. They range from poor work habits to lack of technological skills specific to the job. Communication and teamwork skills are also lacking.

“We have a lot of work to do to make a difference,” Pittman said. “We need to help these employers grow. If they can’t grow, they can’t grow their market share, and that’s not good for the St. Louis economy.”

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