Oil field, healthcare jobs increasing; employers struggling to find workers

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

Business, education and community leaders learned that adapting to the needs of the workforce such as the generation X group, individuals born between 1964 and 1979, could help employers attract and retain employees.

Tom Stellman, a consultant, said at the presentation that his firm assists with strategic planning and "attracting and retaining talent."

"Since September 11, for good reason, we have made it more difficult for foreign students to attend school in the United States," Stellman said. "We are having to compete for talent."

Some employers at the session expressed their dilemma of not being able to find good workers with a basic high school education. Stellman suggested some solutions to partner with a community college or the WorkSource that could provide programs to help bridge that gap from high school into the workplace.

"Individual employees are going to have to take on part of the responsibility," he told the group.

"If you can't find someone to fit in that square peg…you have to wonder if it is the right strategy."

Stellman was referring to a local employer that said he wouldn't hire anyone without a high school diploma.

That employer later said that it was possible he was cutting himself short of applicants and would re-think that decision.

The Jim Wells County/Alice Economic Development Corporation hosted the presentation Tuesday by TIPS Strategies, which stands for Theory Into Practice.

The economic development consulting firm from Austin gave a scope of the labor force and how United States employers are competing globally with other countries such as China and India.

Stellman presented an article that said that after the bombings in London, more than 60,000 job-based visas were withdrawal. And, with the baby boomers reaching retiring age about 2011, the workforce will experience a decline, he said.

"The demand for the labor for the most part will outstrip the supply," Stellman said.

He said the population change from 2000 to 2006 increased for Jim Wells County by 4.6 percent, but Kleberg County suffered a loss of 3.8 percent.

Stellman in his presentation said that one in four jobs over the next decade would be health care related.

In the oil industry, he mentioned that the rig count has continually gone up and unemployment rates have declined from 1997 to 2007.

EDC director Dean Kruckenburg said the program overall was well received.

"I was very pleased with the turnout. I found the presentation to be very interesting and from the response of the people I think it can open eyes to things we can do differently," he said.

"I hope we can continue the dialogue with WorkSource and CBC (Coastal Bend College) and we can work together and address those problems we have here in Alice."