Massachusetts employers believe that the best way to address the shortage of skilled workers is to show those workers the money, according to a new AIM survey.
Asked what strategies their companies have adopted to address the persistent skills gap that affects many industries, 47 percent of employers responded that they have increased wages and benefits. Forty percent say they use temporary-to-permanent employment agencies to find workers, and another 39 percent indicate that they have established a relationship with their local high school or vocational school.
The results were based on responses from 100 employers representing a cross-section of the state economy. Employers could check multiple answers.
Indeed, many employers seem to be using multiple strategies to find the employees they need. Approximately 25 percent of companies say they have established a relationship with a community college, recruited employees from outside the area, used state Workforce Training Fund Grants to improve the skills of existing workers, and established on-the job training.
“We do whatever works, but it is a growing, long-term problem,” said one employer who participated in the survey.
AIM’s Blueprint for the Next Century long-term economic plan for Massachusetts cites hiring and retaining skilled workers at the predominant challenge to the economic prosperity of Massachusetts. The Blueprint calls for Massachusetts to create a flexible and responsive statewide work-force development system that provides residents the opportunity to learn the skills that employers in each region demand.
Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, finds it encouraging that a significant share of employers is forging ties with vocational schools, community colleges and other educational institutions.
“These collaborations allow employers to provide schools and colleges with a clear idea of the skills that are in demand and for the schools to teach those skills to students. It creates a talent pipeline that represents the only long-term solution to the shortage of skilled employees,” Holahan said.
AIM has also supported efforts by the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC) to develop with vocational schools a competency-based curriculum for precision machining that allows students to meet prescribed industry standards.
The emphasis on raising wages and benefits appears at odds with other recent surveys showing that tight labor markets have yet to exert significant upward pressure on average wages.
Massachusetts employers responding to the 2017 AIM HR Practices Survey projected smaller average wage increases in 2017 than in 2016. Wage and salary increase budgets for this year were projected at 2.75 percent, down from 2.,9 percent in 2016 and lower than the predicted 3.0 percent budget increases predicted nationwide.
If you are interested in keeping up with work force development area, please email Katie Holahan at KEH@aimnet.org