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St. Louis-Area Employers Face Worker Shortage; Biggest Need In Science And Engineering

St. Louis Regional Chamber CEO and President Tom Chulick presented findings from the "Bridging the Talent Gap" survey alongside local business and higher education leaders on March 14.
Andy Field | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Regional Chamber CEO and President Tom Chulick presented findings from the "Bridging the Talent Gap" survey alongside local business and higher-education leaders on March 14.

Although St. Louis has an unemployment rate below the national average, area employers are struggling to find candidates who meet their needs, according to a survey by the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

The chamber on Thursday announced findings from the“Bridging the Talent Gap” survey. Among 289 respondents, 94 percent said they are hiring for full-time positions. However, 75 percent of them said they were finding it difficult to recruit certain positions — mostly requiring highly skilled workers.

“The St. Louis region needs more in-depth and meaningful collaboration between higher-education institutions and businesses,” said St. Louis Regional Chamber CEO and President Tom Chulick. “We want students to know where our high-wage jobs are, what kind of industries are hiring, and how our local colleges, universities and training programs can get them there.”

The chamber recieved a grant from The Graduate! Network to conduct the survey. It was one of 28 metros the nonprofit selected. The unemployment rate in St. Louis from January was 4 percent, compared to the national average of 4.4.

The report shows that 86 percent of survey participants said their companies are preparing for “moderate to high” growth in the next three to five years. All respondents in retail, construction and health care said they were expecting “moderate to fast” growth.

But the survey’s findings show that 81 percent of applicable respondents found difficulty filling scientist and engineer positions. Most participants — 53 percent — reported competition from other employers and a low number of applicants as reasons for workforce shortages. Meanwhile, 48 percent of respondents cited applicants not having sufficient skills, as well as qualified candidates demanding more than the employer’s pay range, as issues.

When it comes to possible solutions, 56 percent of St. Louis employers said their companies offer financial support to employees to help them pursue educational goals. In addition, 80 percent of businesses stated that they are willing to partner with education institutions in the future.

The chamber announced the results Thursday alongside Graduate! Network researcher Dan Ash, who developed the survey. He said his organization found that, among all the sites they studied, 35 percent of people who discontinued their education stated they didn’t need to further their studies to meet career goals.

“Reality tells us something strikingly different,” Ash said. “There is a mismatch, another gap in what individuals are thinking they need and what we know to be the reality in the workforce.”

According to the survey’s results, the credential with “the greatest anticipated need” was a bachelor’s degree among St. Louis employers — 42 percent of respondents said they are expecting demands for applicants with a B.A. to increase over the next five years.

Follow Andy Tsubasa Field on Twitter@AndyTsubasaF.

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