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Analysis: Longview area faces shortage of skilled workers

By Mike Elswick
Oct. 27, 2012 at 10 p.m.

A recently completed analysis of labor needs within a 40-mile radius of Longview points out a dire need for more skilled workers.

Diane White, with the Dallas-based consulting group The Pathfinders, told Longview Economic Development Corp. representatives and city leaders this past week that East Texas employers often have difficulty filling job openings for welders, medical specialists, machinists and those with computer and Internet technical skills.

"When it comes to skilled labor, employers have trouble finding workers," White said. "But you're not alone - this is a national issue."

The firm was retained by LEDCO to perform a labor availability report that will be used in recruiting new business and industry while helping East Texas educators target specific needs for training the existing workforce.

"In site selection projects, the question that most often drives the search is whether the candidate location has the workforce needed for a new or expanding location," White said during LEDCO's annual meeting at the Summit Club in downtown Longview. The survey was conducted with phone surveys of 773 households and 30 employers, she said.

"The easiest jobs to fill as reported by the participating employers appear to be in the clerical and general labor/entry level areas," she said. "By far, the reason for the ease of filling these positions is an abundance of available workers."

In addition to skilled positions, White also said employers reported professional positions were often hard to fill as well as certified drivers and shipping and warehouse jobs.

In the area of needed improvements for the Longview area's workforce, employers most often cited more education as the top need.

"Education, including more and stronger technical and trades training along with stricter standards in schools" were cited. White also said more efforts need to be focused on reducing the dropout rate while providing more scholarships so more students can get the needed education.

Employers also said Longview area workers need to improve their parenting skills along with more emphasis on work ethics, job readiness and communications skills.

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<p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Employers' views</strong>

<ul> <li>27 percent of employers interviewed who said their companies had operations in other U.S. regions said the local workforce performed better than average, while 68 percent of employers rated performance "about the same" as elsewhere.</li> <li>67 percent of area employers surveyed complete criminal background checks on job prospects, while 80 percent check for valid driver's licenses.</li> <li>63 percent of employers rated worker productivity as good; 17 percent rated it excellent; 17 percent rated it fair; and 3 percent said productivity among Longview workers was poor;</li> <li>70 percent of employers rated workers' teamwork skills as good.</li> <li>44 percent of employers rated local public schools as fair; 34 percent rated them good; and 11 percent rated them poor and excellent each.</li> <li>52 percent of employers rated local community colleges and tech schools as good, while another 24 percent rated those institutions as excellent; 21 percent rated them fair, and 3 percent rated them poor.Math skills were rated fair by 47 percent of Longview area employers while 30 percent rate math skills among their workers as good; 13 percent said those skills were poor and 10 percent rated math skills as excellent;</li> <li>64 percent of employers rated writing skills among their workforce as fair; 22 percent rated those skills good; 11 percent said writing skills were excellent; and 3 percent said those skills were poor;</li> <li>87 percent of employers rated the Longview area's business climate as being excellent.</li> <li>90 percent of employers rated the area's quality of life as good or excellent.47 percent of area employers said their staffing had increased in the 12 months up to September; 43 percent said employment levels were steady and 10 percent reported decreased levels of employment;</li> <li>47 percent of employers expect their staffing levels to stay the same for the next 12 months; 37 percent expect to see increases in hiring; 12 percent were not sure and 4 percent expect to see decreases in their staffing.</li> </ul> <p style="text-align: left;"><em><strong>Source:</strong> The Pathfinders, Dallas-based consulting group</em>



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