Tough jobs to fill: nursing, drivers
CHAMPAIGN — Nursing and driving positions are among the hardest jobs to fill in Champaign County, the branch manager for Manpower in Champaign said.
Eric Ferguson said he monitored help-wanted advertisements in The News-Gazette during 2013 and divided them up into 46 job classifications.
Nine percent of the ads sought nurses, and 7 percent wanted drivers, he said.
Managerial positions were the subject of 6 percent of the ads, while jobs in mental health, information technology and administrative support each accounted for 5 percent, Ferguson told members of the Central Illinois Human Resources Group on Tuesday.
In some ways, the top 10 "most difficult to fill" jobs in Champaign County mirror Manpower's national list.
Both lists include drivers, sales representatives, managers, information technology jobs, and accounting and finance positions, for example.
But the national list also includes skilled-trades people, engineers, technicians, mechanics and teachers, while the Champaign County list includes nurses, mental health professionals, other health care workers, administrative support staff and retail clerks.
The difference could stem from Champaign County's relatively small manufacturing base and its status as a regional health care hub, as characterized by Carle, Christie Clinic, Health Alliance and Presence Covenant.
Here are Ferguson's top 10 "difficult to fill" jobs, along with comments he made in an interview with The News-Gazette:
1. Nursing."The vast majority of openings were for registered nurses ... and it wasn't just for hospitals. It was for school districts, nursing homes and all the area clinics. ... Fifty-plus organizations had openings for nurses."
2. Drivers. "This includes any job requiring driving on the road — bus companies, courier services, garbage truck drivers. Most of these jobs required commercial driver's licenses. ... Most employers supply the vehicle; they just need someone with a commercial driver's license or an appropriate license."
3. Managers, including directors and executives. "Typically, employers want them to have a degree. They're looking for a leader, and management experience can be hard to come by. Typically, an organization is not going to hire someone to start with no experience."
4. Mental health. "There were a wide range of different jobs — clinicians, therapists, counselors — and a high percentage required a master's degree."
5. Information technology, including tech support staff, software developers and database administrators. Those hiring include manufacturers, insurance companies, municipalities, school districts and colleges.
"A lot of people in this field gain an interest in high school or earlier, and some study for a four-year college degree," Ferguson said. But degrees are not required, he added.
"Employers are looking for the experience. If someone is a software developer, they'll consider a person regardless of degree, as opposed to nursing or mental health. If you've got the skill, that can take you quite a ways."
6. Administrative support. Examples are secretaries, receptionists and data entry clerks. Those hiring include health care providers, ad agencies, bus companies, nonprofit groups, real estate firms, manufacturers, churches and hospitals. "Usually, a company is not requiring a college degree," he said.
Ferguson added he wasn't sure why those jobs would be so hard to fill, but speculated it might have to do with "churn." Wages in the field are so similar that it's easy for workers to move from firm to firm, he said.
7. (tie) Accounting and finance. "There's a wide range of jobs, almost all of them requiring a college degree. Finding people who work with numbers really well is difficult. Even entry-level jobs require knowledge of Excel or some advanced software program."
7. (tie) Other health care jobs. "This is a wide field that doesn't include dental, but does include phlebotomists, certified nursing assistants, medical technicians. ... It will require a degree and taking programs that are very challenging. You can't just wake up one morning and think, 'I'm going to be a medical technician or a radiologist.' It takes a lot of planning, and you have to be good in school," Ferguson said.
9. Sales. Not retail clerks, but sales positions with "any company that has a product to sell — advertising, gravestones, manufacturing, services, home decor, automobiles, insurance." Ferguson said.
"It's difficult finding sales people, because it's very difficult to sell and take 'no' as an answer every day," he said. "People who do it are good, and you don't run into them every day. There's potential in sales to make a lot of money, but there's something intrinsic about being a good sales person."
10. Retail. "I was surprised I saw so many openings," Ferguson said, noting that employers include gas stations, grocery stores and big-box stores. "They're not looking for degrees or experience. There's a wide range of openings, and anyone is qualified to do a lot of these positions."
Ferguson said he also studied unemployment statistics for Champaign County. Of 7,970 people unemployed in November, 4,202 had a high school diploma or less education; 2,517 had some college experience but no degree; 708 had a four-year degree; and 509 had more than four years in college. (No information on educational background was available for 34.)
"The modern economy is no place for someone with only a high school diploma, much less a high school dropout," Ferguson said.
Ferguson said that from 1976 to 2012, the Champaign County unemployment rate remained lower than both the state and national unemployment rates.
But that changed in 2013, when the county's unemployment rate was above the national rate for most of the year, he said.
"I think that's alarming," Ferguson said.
Most difficult jobs to fill in the U.S.
1. Skilled trades
2. Sales representatives
4. Information technology
5. Accounting and finance