Utah companies seeing worker shortage

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah)  - Several industries in Utah are having trouble filling open positions which are often high paying. Labor experts said there are a verity of reasons for this, but it could start having an impact on what companies can do.

John Knotwell is the CEO of the Utah Technology Council, and he's seen the shortage happen first hand for important positions.

"We're seeing shortages in software development, in product design, in product marketing," said Knotwell.

Knotwell said all tech cities around the county are seeing no the same labor shortage. He believes Utah is doing slightly better because of their focus of STEM fields and training.

If positions go unfilled for too long it could start having a real impact on companies.

"You have the potential for off-shoring which is something we don't want to see here," said Knotwell. "You certainly have the potential that you don't fill a job that is really necessary and it slows the growth of that particular business."

Labor experts at the Department of Workforce Services say one of the issues is Utah's low unemployment rate which is around 3.5 percent. Assistant Deputy Director Nate McDonald notes the trained workforce was one of the driving factors in so many companies moving to Utah over the last several years.

"Skilled labor force that we were boasting a few years ago, they're all employed," said McDonald. "Now we have this issue of finding new labor."

Manufacturing and construction have also seen trouble filling open positions. McDonald said all of the openings across industries is normally a combination of not enough workers, non competitive wages, or workers not being skilled enough to fill the position.

State programs like Talent Ready Utah aim to train people so they are qualified enough to get jobs in those fields.

Industry and state leaders note one of the issues is getting past the misconception that these jobs require years of training or a four year degree. For several positions they only require a few months to two years.

"We have code schools you know you can spend just 12 weeks learning how to become a basic programmer or a basic coder," said Knotwell. "You should be able to get hired in that as well."

What's unclear is what impact this labor shortage could have on the seasonal workforce market. Often times companies begin hiring those employees this time of year. 

McDonald said stats show that hasn't been an issue in the past because seasonal and full time workers often have different circumstances. Experts likely won't have stats on the impact until after the holiday season.


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