September 26, 2018
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Here are the jobs Maine employers struggle to fill

Johanna S. Billings | BDN
Johanna S. Billings | BDN
A piece of heavy equipment brings supplies to the construction site for the Eastport breakwater in this April 3, 2015, BDN file photo. According to the Maine Department of Labor's Center for Workforce Research and Information, the construction industry had the second-highest overall share of hard-to-fill jobs among among respondents of a workforce survey last fall, most of whom cited lack of qualified candidates as their biggest challenge filling jobs.
By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — A batch of about 755 Maine businesses told state officials this time last year that they had at least one job opening. Seventy-one percent of those jobs, they said, were difficult to fill.

The survey from the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information revealed some of the most in-demand jobs and where those jobs were based.

Last week, the department shared more details about which of those jobs employers found hardest to fill, and why. About 2,400 businesses responded to the survey, and 31 percent — or 755 — had job openings.

Altogether, they reported 21,500 job openings last September, with 15,400 of those difficult to fill. About 10,000 of those difficult-to-fill jobs were full time.

Generally, the Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information data show employers had the hardest time filling jobs requiring higher levels of education and more experience, though employers said the majority of jobs across all education and experience levels posed challenges. The highest-paying jobs ($30 per hour or more) were easiest to fill.

The survey dug deeper to ask employers why the jobs were tough to fill — not enough applicants, not enough qualified applicants, doesn’t pay enough or applicants felt the working conditions stank — and asked them to select one reason.

For nearly half of the tough-to-fill jobs, employers said they weren’t getting qualified candidates. About 35 percent said they didn’t get enough applicants.

But the reasons cited across various industries differed widely, with highly specialized fields citing qualifications as a problem.

Overall, the greatest number of difficult-to-fill job vacancies were in areas requiring the lowest levels of experience or education. And the most common reason cited was lack of qualified applicants or lack of applicants altogether.

The survey provides a wealth of information about the challenges employers perceive in finding qualified employees — touching on the topics of workforce development or the skills gap — but the results by experience level also show some of the vagaries of surveys.

Employers with jobs requiring no experience responded that about 4 percent of those jobs were tough to fill because of a lack of experience.

The department noted that the survey, which was the first annual job vacancy survey done by the department, will look to solicit more information about desired skills in future versions, as 55 percent of jobs for which employers said there were not enough qualified candidates carried no education requirement.

The survey also revealed the industries and specific occupations employers had the hardest time filling, including nearly all of the job openings in construction, natural resources and professional and technical services categorized as “difficult to fill.”

Construction also had the second-highest overall share of hard-to-fill jobs among respondents last fall, most of whom cited lack of qualified candidates as their biggest challenge filling jobs.

The survey found health care and social assistance, which had the highest number of total vacancies, also had the hardest time filling positions. The top reason was just a lack of applicants. About 60 percent of the jobs in that industry require some education beyond high school, and more than 53 percent required some previous experience.

By specific jobs, the survey identified personal care aides, food preparation workers, truck drivers, nursing assistants and retail salespeople as the specific jobs employers have the hardest time filling.


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