Your Workforce by Roger Herman

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Specialized Retraining Programs Will Flourish in 2002

Despite the layoffs generated by the world's economic recession, thousands of jobs remain unfilled. Employers face difficulty finding qualified people to fill jobs in a number of fields. The healthcare industry is in serious need of nurses in all specialties, radiological technicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, lab workers, and support staff. Energy industry recruiters seek engineers, geologists, and qualified operators. This need will be accentuated as the people running nuclear energy plants retire-this natural attrition will create a demand that will be hard to meet.

With security concerns increasing, there is a growing need for competent personnel in both public and private sector organizations. Consider recent decisions by the US government to hire thousands of air marshals to provide protective services on airplanes and to federalize airport security. Drawing from law enforcement and private security resources to fill these positions will create vacancies among employers who were already looking for more people to expand their ranks.

Construction firms need welders, crane operators, and engineers. Automotive collision repair shops have over 18,500 vacancies, according to a recent survey. Dot-com downsizing has not met the needs of the information technology industry and other high-tech organizations. There is a shortage of wireless network technicians, supply chain integrators, and systems engineers. Manufacturers need machinists and other skilled workers, including those who can operate computer-controlled equipment. There is a developing opportunity for more people to operate sophisticated printing presses. Service technicians are in short supply in a number of fields including photocopy machines and telecommunications systems.

Where will employers find people to hire for these jobs? If they can't find qualified workers, companies will be forced to hire people with aptitude and train them to perform the work to be done. Improved selection techniques will be used to minimize risks of wrong choices of people to put through expensive training programs. People who are now unemployed, underemployed, or disemployed will seek opportunities to learn new skills to prepare for new careers, creating demand for training programs provided by private suppliers and community colleges. The field of technical training will expand to meet these emerging needs.

The Churning Has Begun!

As the economy heats up again, companies will begin to rehire those employees who were laid off. New positions will be created and recruiting will intensify to fill those jobs with the best people available.

The first people to be hired in a reheating economy will be key senior executives who are needed to lead the charge. Current leaders will certainly be involved, but many organizations will bring in new blood specifically charged with substantial growth. Smart companies will strive for strong positioning on the leading edge of the expansion.

More aggressive recruiting of executives has begun. From a number of sources around the country, we have received indications of significant movement-among recruiters, among executives accepting new positions, and among relocation companies engaged to manage their moves. This activity is the first step in the transformation back to a lively economy, and it is quietly beginning.

The next targets of the recruiters will be middle managers with specific talents. Depending on their needs, savvy companies preparing for growth will seek experienced marketers, sales professionals, manufacturing managers, logistics specialists, and others, depending on the business of the firm.

Based on trends being carefully watched by the Consulting Futurists at The Herman Group, we forecast an unprecedented churning in the American labor marketplace, beginning in the third quarter of 2002. As the economy heats up, refreshing opportunities and aggressive recruiting will challenge loyalties. Wise employers will engage in strategies to build positive relationships with their employees now. The Herman Group also observes that more employers will invest in training, development, and coaching efforts to strengthen the bonds with their valued employees.

Economically, The Herman Group sees slow growth starting in first quarter 2002, with more apparent signals surfacing in the second quarter. Based on their research, they anticipate 4-5% growth rate by fourth quarter. As the country gets back on track, latent American optimism will resurface with the strong economic projections laid out at the start of the decade. We'll move back into a boom mentality, causing severe difficulties, as employers' demands for workers cannot be met. The country is currently approximately five million workers short, a figure that is exacerbated by the need for competencies that are in short supply.


Roger Herman is owner of The Herman Group, Greensboro, NC and is a specialist in employee retention.