January 10, 2010
Cautiously optimistic: Many employers predict better days for Seattle's job market
As the new decade begins, NWjobs asked area businesses and a labor expert to predict what 2010 will bring for the job market. Cautious optimism was the prevailing theme; employers in several industries say they expect to begin hiring this year.
Dave Wallace, acting chief economist for the state Employment Security Department, is among the optimistic. “I think we’ll see employment increasing,” he says. “It may be a couple of years until we get back to where we were before the recession, but hopefully, we’ll get some positive signs. I’m sure we will.”
Wallace says he expects construction to continue to struggle in 2010. “That’s a sector that’s still overcoming the overbuilding that we did in the preceding years leading up to the recession,” he says.
High-tech jobs are among those that show signs of picking up again. “In other areas -- for example, IT -- we might see some growth,” Wallace says. “Education and health care will probably remain steady. We’re still adding jobs in those sectors.
“There is still a lot of talk about ‘green’ jobs; there may be some growth there. In terms of aerospace, I see it stabilizing but not growing in the future. It’s still a very important industry in our state. The employment numbers are still pretty high.”
Also important to our state: information industries. “A lot of analysts thought we were pretty well positioned as we exit this recession because of industries like information, which, unlike construction, should do pretty good,” Wallace says.
Adaptability is a key to success in 2010 and beyond, he and several employers say. “Employers right now often want specialized skills, but the trick there is that [specialized skills] tend to change over time,” Wallace says. “While it’s important to have some hard skills, it’s also very important to have a generalized knowledge that allows you to be adaptable to changing forces in the market.”
Here are some predictions by Puget Sound-area employers about 2010’s job market, the jobs they’ll be hiring for and the skills most in demand.
Callison architecture and design firm
Tica Gordon, director of human resources
“We anticipate there will be a leveling off in the decline of the domestic design market as banks and other creditors are again able to provide the funding our clients need for projects. Our greatest increase in business will come from projects located outside the U.S. As a result, there will be some modest re-hiring and/or new hiring as needed in 2010 in the Seattle area.
“We are experiencing a growth in demand for Western-experienced architects and designers with fluency in mainland Mandarin. This is in response to a surge in business in the People’s Republic of China.
“A diversified skill set within the architectural and design practice is what we need. Employees or candidates who have experience and can work across various markets (such as retail and commercial mixed-use) and who are able to work in different geographical locations (such as PRC and the Middle East) will be in highest demand. Flexibility is a premium attribute.”
Krista Kinney, director of regional employment
“We are looking forward to more competition for outstanding candidates as the economic picture continues to improve. This strengthens us, as an employer, and our recruitment techniques.
“Leadership positions are always in great demand. Looking forward, we will see more opportunities at a Team Lead level in our stores. These would be over selling areas or support.
“We continue to seek candidates who enjoy working with and assisting the public -- creative, thinking people who enjoy a challenge and have the ability to continue to learn new things.”
Plum Creek Timber Company
Barbara Crowe, vice president of human resources
“Plum Creek operates in 19 states, so our employee base is dispersed and our employment in the Puget Sound area is modest. While we are hopeful to see moderate signs of improvement in our businesses in 2010, we have no plans to add to our local workforce.
“In addition to required technical skills and job knowledge, we look for employees with excellent interpersonal, communications and leadership skills. We also value a strong work ethic and a commitment to growing the value of the company.”
Turner Construction Company
Scott Holbrook, vice president of operations
“We actually don’t see the job market shifting in 2010 but staying relatively flat for the construction industry in general. We’ve been fortunate in that some major projects have come back online for Turner, as the economy has started to turn around, such as the Port of Seattle’s rental car facility.
“We are excited to be working on more agile and lean construction practices that are allowing us to complete projects for our clients much more quickly. Those new practices require our people to be well versed in high-tech areas such as 3-D modeling and managing integrated project teams.
“Turner is incredibly proud of our employees and we recognize them as our primary asset. To be successful, Turner must be a rewarding place to work. We provide opportunity and encouragement to help our people reach their potential. In fact, if any skills are lacking, our company provides the training and time needed to enhance any needed skill areas.”
Jay Johnson, director of global talent acquisition
“Many financial services companies were reluctant to hire over the past year while our industry experienced great change. These firms, like many others, are operating with fewer employees than before. Because of this resource gap, we expect there will be an increase in hiring in 2010. Yet companies are still being cautious and assessing which new positions are the most critical.
“One of Russell’s priorities is attracting talented individuals who will help us serve clients more effectively. That means adding positions that interact directly with clients and perhaps also back-office positions that help deliver on client expectations. As Russell serves clients in more than 40 countries, it is also important to seek out individuals who will promote global innovation.
“The ability to identify global solutions to meet clients’ needs is important to Russell, and the ability to wear many hats within our globally networked organization is paramount. Russell is looking for people who can simultaneously lead technical projects within their business area and lend their talents to broader global initiatives.”
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Nerreda Hewitt, senior recruiter
“In these times when the market is flooded with great candidates and it is really competitive, candidates need to research. They need to take the extra time up front to research the company, the qualifications. Attention to detail can make all the difference.
“State in your objective that you are seeking a research position. Be very selective in your process; recruiters can tell by your applicant history if you have applied several times to varied positions. Companies like to feel that candidates are highly interested and regard their company as the best place to work. Just like applicants, they are looking for a commitment as well. You have to relay that you are seeking a career, not just a job.
“The key is interpersonal skills, known as soft skills. The ability to see the bigger picture and the ability to adapt to all situations [are important]. In a world that is ever-changing, upgrading, reorganizing and shifting, flexibility is crucial.”
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Terry Hamilton, health care recruiter
“Nursing research is an integral part of science. But advancing research through the help of nursing is complex. Schools are not focused on the science of nursing as a top priority. Although graduate degrees for nurses have become more common, doctorally prepared nursing professionals are not being produced in large enough numbers.
“Nurse educators are facing a changing health care system, shifting student and patient demographics, explosion in technology, globalization of health care and multiple everyday changes. To predict what will happen, it has been said that ‘one only needs to look at what has already happened.’ ”
Michael Cindric, vice president of human resources, Washington region
“We’re in a buyer’s market, which means employers have the luxury of choosing from among dozens, if not hundreds, of well-qualified and experienced applicants. The applicant who stands out from the crowd are those that not only have the skills and experience necessary for the role but those that have done their homework in terms of knowing the business, the competition and culture of the company in which they are applying and demonstrating their passion for being part of that organization.
“The vast majority of the people we hire here in Washington are front-line service technicians and customer-care representatives. This won’t change in 2010. We are always looking for people who not only have the technical expertise to install and troubleshoot our cable, high-speed Internet and phone services, but also possess great customer service skills. The majority of their time is spent in the home working directly with customers or troubleshooting over the phone from one of our three Washington-based call centers.
“In addition, we always have a need for experienced technicians and engineers, since we are continually building out our fiber-optic network to homes and businesses.
“In today’s market, where customer service is the differentiator among the competition, customer service skills are critically important. In telecommunications, for example, you have a winning combination if you can combine a customer orientation with strong technical skills.
“Additionally, in today’s environment, where there is tremendous pressure to gain efficiency and increase productivity, employees who are creative and innovative in finding business solutions will be extremely successful.”
The Boeing Company
Stephen M. Davis, spokesperson
“Boeing is weathering the difficult business and economic conditions that all companies are experiencing. As one of the largest global aerospace companies, Boeing places a high value on the engineering and technical skills required to grow and sustain our business. Our markets will be growing again and our order backlog is huge, so we plan -- and hire -- for the long term.
“Boeing is hiring for critical skills across its enterprise in support of its business plans and is managing to attrition where required. People with engineering backgrounds can find a good fit at Boeing: network communications, software, structural analysis, systems, manufacturing and flight engineers.
“Our Commercial Airplanes unit is continuing to hire to support airplane production and the backlog of orders. Again, it’s more around our product life cycle -- needing the long-term skills to carry us through that cycle. Having a pipeline of diverse talent is critical.
“Bringing on new talent is important because of what they bring to the workforce -- exposure to technologies and new ideas. And they are the future of The Boeing Company. We are approaching an era where large numbers of workers in the baby-boomer generation are eligible to retire.
“We have a strong need for engineers and technical talent right now. And we’re competing for these skills with others in the industry. In addition to some of the more traditional engineering skills, we have a strong need for cyber, intelligence, quality and information assurance and software engineers to meet our defense customers’ [needs] in the intelligence side.
“These jobs have the added challenge of requiring clearances, because they are government jobs and in many cases deal with issues of national security. Our long-term goals continue to focus on attracting and retaining a highly skilled, diverse and motivated work force to meet future business needs and sustain the unique talent needed to continue building our products.”
Kelley Dobbs, vice president of human resources and labor relations
“I think we will see fewer layoffs, but I don’t anticipate a lot of hiring in 2010. Through this recession, companies have focused on lean process improvement and greater efficiency and are getting more done with fewer resources. Laying off good people is really hard, so companies will not be eager to hire again until they are sure growth is sustainable.
“As we partner with our employees to become more productive, we could potentially have some demand for the types of positions related to lean process improvement, change management and metrics analysis.
“In today's environment, it is critical that employees have change leadership and management skills and strong communication skills. Business is moving at a very fast pace today, so the ability to communicate what is changing, why it is changing and how every employee is involved, in simple terms, is critical. In addition, our customers are more self-sufficient than ever before, but when they have a problem, they want it resolved quickly. We need people who can make that happen and provide genuine and caring service.”
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