The construction, mining, oil and gas industries appear to be stabilizing following the recession and have begun hiring again, according to continuing research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). But skill deficiencies might be making it harder to re-staff, particularly for positions that traditionally have been hard to fill, SHRM’s polling results show.
SHRM began conducting a series of polls in 2011 to gauge the overall impact of the recession on its members’ organizations; this poll focuses on the construction, mining, oil and gas industries. Results previously reported address recruiting and skill gaps and overall financial health and hiring, both released in November 2011, and global competition and hiring strategies, released in December 2011.
Of the two-thirds of organizations in the construction, mining, oil and gas industries that reported they were hiring full-time staff in the fall of 2011, approximately half reported difficulty recruiting for specific open jobs, according to SHRM poll results. The most difficult positions to fill were:
- Engineers (88 percent).
- High-skilled technical (e.g., technicians and programmers) (79 percent).
- Managers and executives (76 percent).
- Skilled trades (electricians, carpenters) (68 percent).
- Sales representatives (60 percent).
Overall, a majority of poll respondents (57 percent) reported that they lost 10 percent of employees or less in 2011, compared with 45 percent of respondents reporting that they lost 10 percent or less employees in 2010. At the same time, there has been an increase from 6 percent in 2010 to 10 percent in 2011 of respondents from these industries that reported having lost more than 50 percent of staff.
Still, respondents from these industries reported improved organizational financial health compared with March 2010. In 2011, 46 percent of organizations reported they were in a significant or mild recovery, compared with 36 percent in 2010.
Hiring Outlook, Challenges
Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents are hiring, which is an increase from 50 percent in 2010. Only the health and high-tech industries are more likely to be hiring than the construction, mining, oil and gas industries.
And similar to 2010 findings, about one-half of organizations in 2011 were mainly hiring direct replacements for jobs lost. Fewer of these organizations were hiring for new positions in 2011 than in 2010 (44 percent), and more organizations in 2011 were hiring for positions with duties added to jobs lost since the recession began than in 2010 (8 percent).
The hiring appears to be predominantly in the nonmanagement ranks, with 72 percent of employers reporting they are hiring nonmanagerial hourly workers and 70 percent reporting they are hiring nonmanagerial salaried employees, the poll results show. While 49 percent of respondents say these hires are direct replacements for workers lost during the recession, 14 percent say they are adding new duties to these positions; 37 percent say they are hiring for new positions. Of the new positions, 61 percent require a combination of the original job skills needed and new skills; 29 percent require only the previously needed skills, while 10 percent require a new set of skills.
Unfortunately, employers report that nearly one-third to approximately one-half of job applicants lack key basic skills, such as:
- English fluency (33 percent).
- Writing (in English) skills (48 percent).
- Reading comprehension (38 percent).
- Mathematics, particularly computational skills (32 percent).
In addition, respondents said a significant percentage of job applicants lack the following applied skills:
- Critical thinking/problem solving (52 percent).
- Professionalism/work ethic and leadership (45 percent, respectively).
- Oral communications (44 percent).
The survey was fielded to a randomly selected group of 311 human resource professionals from Aug. 18, 2011, through Sept. 2, 2011, and yielded an 11 percent response rate. Fifty-five percent of responding organizations employ fewer than 500 workers, with a majority of companies (74 percent) based and operating solely in the U.S.
SHRM plans to release periodic reports focused on the following industries throughout 2012:
- Federal government.
- State and local government.
Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM.