Hardest Jobs to Fill Survey: It’s Still Engineers, IT, and the Skilled Trades

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It’s one of the defining issues of our current economic climate: despite a national unemployment rate of 8 percent, it’s still tough for many companies to find workers with the right skills for jobs they are trying to fill.

In case that fact isn’t entirely visible to you and your organization, Manpower’s Seventh Annual Talent Shortage Survey makes that fact perfectly clear.

According to the survey, nearly half (49 percent) of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling “mission-critical positions within their organizations.” Although this is down slightly from the 52 percent of employers who said they were struggling in this regard in 2011, it’s much worse in the U.S. than in other parts of the world where a significantly lower 34 percent of employers say they are having difficulty filling positions.

The 10 hardest jobs to fill

The Manpower survey of more than 1,300 U.S. employers found the most difficult positions to fill include (not surprisingly) skilled trades, engineers and IT staff, all of which have appeared multiple times since the Manpower survey began in 2006.

In the U.S., the 10 hardest jobs to fill according to Manpower’s Talent Shortage Survey are:

  1. Skilled trades (was also No. 1 in 2011)
  2. Engineers
  3. IT staff
  4. Sales representatives
  5. Accounting & finance staff
  6. Drivers
  7. Mechanics
  8. Nurses
  9. Machinists/machine operators
  10. Teachers

A skills mismatch

“Based on the many conversations we have with employers every day, Manpower Group recognizes the ongoing challenge business leaders face when looking for the right talent,” said Jonas Prising, Manpower Group president of the Americas, in a press release about the annual survey.

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“This skills mismatch has major ramifications on employment and business success in the U.S. and around the globe. Wise corporate leaders are doing something about it, and we increasingly see that they’re developing workforce strategies and partnerships with local educational institutions to train their next generation of workers.”

Here’s what is interesting (or frightening, depending on your point of view) about this Manpower Group survey: It shows that despite the fact that the world and particularly the U.S.)  continues to struggle with the talent mismatch, “a substantial proportion of employers indicate unfilled positions are expected to have little or no impact on key constituents, such as customers and investors. This proportion has grown considerably worldwide from 36 percent in 2011 to 56 percent in 2012.”

In other words, despite the lack of the specific talent organizations need to fill jobs they need filled, they don’t view that as any big deal.

“We’re seeing too many employers become complacent about the talent shortage and ultimately they will struggle to realize their business objectives<” says Manpower’s Prising. “Our advice to employers of all sizes is to align their workforce strategy with their business strategy to anticipate talent needs for today and for tomorrow. If done successfully, a winning workforce strategy can separate thriving market leaders from surviving competitors.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


3 Comments on “Hardest Jobs to Fill Survey: It’s Still Engineers, IT, and the Skilled Trades

  1. The interesting part here isn’t the fields that are having trouble, it’s the REASONS they’re having trouble: they’re unable to find people with the amount of experience they desire willing to work for the wage they’re offering.

    As someone who’s spent plenty of time searching for an entry-level IT job, I’d argue that the problem here isn’t a skills mismatch, it’s an expectations mismatch; employers aren’t just searching for “Engineers” and “IT staff”, they’re searching for engineers and IT staff with 5+ years experience who are willing to work for a bit under market rates.

    That’s the problem with simply looking at the number of job openings in a given category, as so many labor studies have done. If a company posts a job opening for a position requiring a highly-qualified engineer with 10+ years of experience in a specialized field, but their salary offer for that position is $40k, it’s only natural that they’re going to have trouble filling that position.

  2. That’s an interesting take, but I can’t help agree with Max’s comments.

    Personally I have 20 years technical experience with major clients on
    significant IT projects, I’m in the position where I have had to take role
    that is under market rate.

    With the cost of living rising I’m now in the job market for a position that meet those challenge.

    I have found that most employers are simply looking to underpay for skills, it’s a fact. I fear that if I want to be paid the market rate, I may have to move province or take the risk on contract work.

  3. Hmm, I think this it too broad in terms of demography. I’m an English teacher in NJ, and I can tell you, teachers are NOT in demand in NJ. And they haven’t been since 2009 when we had massive education cuts. 

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