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Wanted: Skilled employees

Kaitlin Madden, CareerBuilder Writer

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Believe it or not, while many people are still struggling to find work, many companies are also struggling to find skilled workers. It seems contradictory, but numerous studies show that businesses are having a challenging time finding able employees, and will continue to do so in the future.

Current shortage

According to the most recent "Professional Employment Report" by global staffing firm Robert Half International, 42 percent of executives say that they expect to have a hard time finding skilled workers in the third quarter of 2011, up from 37 percent who said the same about Q2. The survey also reported that, in the fields of finance, IT, advertising and marketing, and legal, at least 40 percent of employers call finding well-qualified employees at least somewhat challenging.

"Shortages [are being reported] for specific positions, such as financial analysts and IT developers," says Brandi Britton, a district president with Robert Half International. "On the finance side, a shortage of professionals with analysis expertise is developing. As business activity increases, companies need financial analysts who can help them understand the story behind their financial data and identify growth opportunities. The best candidates are those who combine functional expertise with strong technology and communication skills."

On the other hand, she says, "in information technology, there is a dearth of developers available. While nearly every company needs developers, there aren't enough professionals with this skill set available."

Future problems

According to a study from Georgetown University called "Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements" the worker shortage is a problem that will continue to grow. The study predicts that by 2018, the U.S. will need "22 million workers with college degrees, but will fall short of that number by at least 3 million."

Moreover, the report points out that it's not just a lack of post-secondary degrees and apprenticeships that will contribute to the skilled-worker deficiency. "Getting ahead and staying ahead also requires that we all become 'learning workers' who continually improve and update our existing skills and who are willing to keep learning as new knowledge emerges and new skills are in demand," concludes the study's executive summary. "Even in the midst of a historically deep recession and soaring unemployment, jobs go unfilled because of a mismatch between the skills and experience of job applicants and those in demand by employers."

Most-wanted skills

If you're currently searching for a job, or plan to do so in the next few years, you'll greatly increase your odds of landing a job you want by developing the skills cited by employers as the most in demand. To help you figure out what will make you the most marketable, we asked employers to share the qualifications they're looking for in future employees. Here's what they had to say.

1. "Although there are many candidates for employment in our region, we struggle to identify administrative candidates with intermediate Microsoft Office 2007 user skills. We also struggle to identify QuickBooks 2009 users with experience processing financial transactions and bi-weekly payroll. As a result, many small businesses work with temporary agencies or virtual assistants to complete projects requiring intermediate Microsoft Office skills and accounting firms to complete routine bookkeeping and payroll requirements." -- Crystal Kendrick, president, The Voice of Your Customer, a Cincinnati -based marketing firm

2. "Whenever I am looking for assistants or interns, the skills I have the hardest time finding are writing skills and attention to detail. And, although it isn't a skill, it's really hard to find someone with a good work ethic and stick-to-it-iveness. It is so hard to find someone who can write a properly-spelled, well-constructed sentence, much less a whole document or press release. Also, many of the candidates don't seem to have the ability to be detail-oriented and meticulous, so that when they attempt data entry tasks such as updating a press list, I find that important details haven't been checked for accuracy (phone numbers, email addresses), so I have to spend almost as much time checking as I would have had to spend doing it myself. So, when I find someone good, it's pretty exciting." -- Lizzy Shaw, owner of Los Angeles-based Lizzy Shaw Public Relations

3. "I own an award winning software development company in Cincinnati and we have are having a very hard time find programmers in general, even more so those who not only know how to program, but understand business and have good communication skills. We build custom software, so we are a service business, [thus] in the business of customer service. This is something that most technical people don't seem to understand." -- Dave Hatter, owner, Libertas Technologies, LLC.

4. "It is difficult to find job applicants who are capable of sustained focus. At Blue Gavel Press, our editors must be able to sit for hours and concentrate as they read and edit important facts. Many applicants are not prepared to take on that challenge, and the dedication to accuracy that comes with it. It is a skill that is as valuable as it is rare." -- Theresa Jones, president of Blue Gavel Press, a publisher of business information and books based in Rock Island, Ill.

5. "We have been having trouble for a long time trying to find skilled labor for two different positions. [The first is] personal assistants. Believe it or not, both celebrity and executive assistants are really hard to come by. Ninety-nine times out of 100 (and yes, it seems like we've gone through that many) as soon as you give them any real work instead of something like picking up coffee they whine and quit (or need to be let go because they play on their phones all day instead of doing anything productive). The skills involved are 'personal service' and 'organizational management' but yet there appears to be a large amount of applicants with a small amount of skill.

"[The second is] marketing staff. Marketing encompasses everything from promotion to distribution logistics. A pertinent skill in this field is to generate ideas and oversee projects that yield publicity results and/or profit. Yet, there are many applicants that demand high salaries that have no ability to be creative or drive results. It is almost as if people want jobs, but don't care or have any passion left for a job well done." -- Anand Bhatt, CEO of record label Sonic Wave International, Inc.

Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow @Careerbuilder on Twitter.

Last Updated: 07/06/2011 - 2:42 PM

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