Occupational Shortages in Healthcare and Manufacturing

July 8, 2008

Despite a weak labor market, many Ohio employers say they have trouble finding qualified workers in key occupations. This report evaluates the evidence for occupational shortages in health care and manufacturing in Ohio and analyzes their likely causes. We found the strongest evidence for occupational shortages in the health care sector, where we identified ten health care occupations that increased their real median wage and added more than 400 positions statewide between 2004 and 2007. In lower-skilled or entry-level positions, wages have fallen and recruitment problems could be eased by better compensation and working conditions.

In manufacturing, we analyzed shop floor production, installation, repair, engineering and technical occupations. We did not find clear evidence of shortages except in a few machinery repair and engineering occupations. Twenty production occupations grew by at least 500 positions statewide, but only two small occupations — bindery workers and metal-refining furnace operators — experienced real wage gains (although wage analysis in this sector is complicated by layoffs and retirements among the highest-paid). We also found drops in participation in apprenticeships and public sector training programs, even in jobs that are growing.

We conclude that resolving workforce development challenges is rarely just a straightforward matter of increasing training program capacity. While employer concerns about skill deficits (particularly among entry-level workers) must be taken seriously, occupational shortages are inseparable from employer practices that influence recruitment, retention, and skill development. The state must focus on employers that are actively addressing job quality and help them develop a comprehensive, long-term human resource strategy that provides meaningful career opportunities for workers.

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