BY KIM MOORE
A conversation about the staffing industry with CEOs from Madden Industrial Craftsmen and Selectemp Employment Services followed by the staffing firm powerlist.
BY KIM MOORE
Acting CEO, Madden Industrial Craftsmen
OB: How has the economic recovery affected companies’ hiring strategies?
KM: A lot of companies are more hesitant to take on permanent or full-time employees. They are utilizing staffing firms more because of the questionable hiring costs that are coming down the road, such as from the Affordable Care Act. Employers are unsure what the costs of the act will be.
OB: Is there a lack of skilled labor force in the Portland metro area?
KM: Trades and manufacturing are probably the biggest [skills] gaps we have. I serve on the board of directors for Portland Community College, and as a nation, we have lost focus on how we educate people. When you are taking a PCC welding program, we see it as a top tier; you have reached a pinnacle for that career. As a state, we are looking at instead of making welding a two-year program, [make] welding a certificate or a badging-type program. You get a badge or some form of recognition that you passed, but you can become a fabricator once you have learned how to read blueprints; and then you can go into metallurgy and maybe even engineering.
OB: Why do you think there is not much emphasis on progressing past a basic level of certification for trades?
KM: It is just the way the U.S. has viewed that kind of training. Most of the time, employers have thought they need to fill a gap quickly, so they were not concerned about training or progressing on the job. But technology is changing. Machining has gone from manual machining to computer numeric control [CNC] machining. We also have 3-D printing. Employers are starting to realize we have to stay ahead of the curve.
OB: In which sectors are you seeing job growth?
KM: With the positions that are being created in health care, they are expecting huge growth there. Construction is growing quickly. I don’t feel we have enough people trained in construction to fill those needs. We even find in manufacturing that it is hard to fill entry-level positions.
OB: Have you noticed a demographic shift in the types of people who are looking for jobs in the Portland area?
KM: Yes, especially in the trades. I mentioned the machining field; the older segment that were trained as manual machinists have to go back to retrain in CNC machining. The younger employees know how to operate the CNC machines. Our recruiting process has changed because we have to be more aware of that younger demographic. If you look at our advertising campaign ‘I am Madden,’ it is geared more toward a younger field. We are spotlighting employees in our campaigns. We have bus ads with pictures of actual employees. We have done TV advertisements with actual employees. Through this, we are trying to attract a younger, more tech-savvy applicant.
CEO, Selectemp Employment Services
OB: Are companies hiring more as the economy recovers?
RC: Yes, they are hiring more. In 2008, 2009 and well into 2010, there was very little hiring going on. Are we back to 2006 levels? We are not. But we are seeing a steady increase.
OB: When do you think the job market will return to prerecession levels?
RC: I believe we are coming close now. At our staffing company we see a pendulum: We swing between one extreme of being a sales-driven company and the other extreme of being a recruiting company. In 2008-2009, we were totally sales driven because there were enough employees out there to fill virtually any jobs that we had available. We are seeing the pendulum swing to the other side now, where we are starting to become more of a recruiting company, where we have to work harder to get particular kinds of people in the door.
OB: In what parts of the state are you finding it harder to fill positions?
RC: In our smaller branches or markets, such as Roseburg and Albany, we are not having quite so many problems finding employees. In the Portland, Eugene and Medford areas, we are starting to see some pressure on being able to recruit.
OB: Why do you think it is harder to recruit in Portland, Eugene and Medford?
RC: Part of the problem is the wages have not kept up. Employers still think it is an employers’ market. They have not kept up with the fact that we are getting closer to a full level of employment, and that they are going to have to offer some higher wages in order to fill their positions. I think what we will see on the horizon in the next year is that there will be a pressure to increase wages. That is the vortex we are at. More people are saying, ‘I am not going to work for $11 an hour,’ or ‘I have to have a minimum of this or that before I work for you.’ Those employees that have skills are getting to be a little more picky.
OB: Seattle just increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Would that benefit Oregon?
RC: The problem with artificially increasing the minimum wage is that employers will find ways not to fill positions, or they will automate. It puts pressure on employers’ ability to grow and offer employment when you have artificially high wages.
OB: Is there a healthier jobs market in certain areas of the state as opposed to other regions?
RC: Medford is a market unto itself. It is well enough removed from the rest of the state that it is its own little biosphere, if you will. We are starting to see some gains in that market. Some of the wood products are starting to come back. There was a lot of industry that left that area in the early to late 2000s, and it put a real hurt on the employment. But there have been some new industries that have moved back into the area, which is helping the economy down there. There is new building in that area. Those are good economic indicators, when investors are willing to go out and start building structures.