Entry-Level Talent in Seattle: Baseline Skills Required for Success
As a workforce intermediary seeking to better connect low-income individuals to living-wage jobs, Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) focuses its labor market research on identifying middle-wage jobs in our local economy. Training residents for these jobs provides an opportunity to meet the greatest skills shortages facing local employers while helping low-income and low-skill individuals advance into good-paying careers.
This issue of Beyond the Headlines provides information about the baseline skills that Seattle employers seek in entry-level talent (individuals with experience of 2 years or less). Our research(i) shows that Seattle employers are pursuing entry-level talent who display productivity and leadership skills, including many soft skills, regardless of field and level of education. That said, the demand for these skills is increasing among entry-level job postings recruiting for individuals with less than a college education. Seattle employers in the business, clerical, education/human services, and information technology fields also have high demand for analytical and technical skills. Employers in the business, information technology, as well as manufacturing and production fields have a unique demand for a combination of skills connected to effective communication, improvement, and decision-making.
Seattle employers are recruiting for entry-level talent who employ a ‘work smarter’ approach (see Chart 1a in Appendix A). The skills that comprise this approach are creativity, detail orientation, teamwork and collaboration, multi-tasking, time management, problem-solving, and meeting deadlines. All of the fields analyzed showed higher demand for these productivity skills in Seattle compared to the U.S. average and, among Seattle employers, those hiring in the fields of sales, information technology, health care, and finance published the greatest number of job postings listing these skills. Employers in other metropolitan areas such as Denver, San Francisco, Phoenix, Detroit, and Boston also listed these skills at high rates in their entry-level job postings.
Demand for leadership skills in entry-level talent is also strong in the Seattle area (see Chart 1b in Appendix A). Employers are recruiting for entry-level talent who display and maintain a positive disposition as well as build effective relationships. Complementary to these skills is the high demand for entry-level talent with strong communication, organizational, and planning skills. Similar to the pattern seen with productivity skills, fields such as sales, information technology, health care, and finance published the greatest number of job postings listing these skills in Seattle. Denver, San Francisco, and Phoenix ranked top three in level of demand for leadership skills among metro areas – a similar pattern as shown for productivity skills.
The majority of the specific skills that fit into the productivity and leadership categories are soft skills. Soft skills are in high demand in job postings regardless of field and level of education. That said, the frequency of these skills is increasing among postings for entry-level workers with no college education and decreasing among postings for entry-level workers with a college education. The increase among postings requiring no college education is driven by a higher percent of sales, customer support, hospitality, and maintenance/repair job postings that are listing these skills. The decline among job postings requiring a college education can be attributed to an increase in more complex skills rising in frequency such as planning, prioritizing tasks, analytical skills, editing, and articulation. The high demand for soft skills has employers thinking about better ways to assess their presence during the recruiting phase, as anyone can list them on a resume.(ii)
The fields of business, clerical, education/human services, and information technology show higher demand for analytical and technical skills among entry-level workers compared to the U.S. average (see Chart 2). Analytical and technical skills are defined as mathematics, computer skills, research, typing, and troubleshooting. The two roles driving demand for these skills in Seattle are software developer/engineer and office assistant. Employers such as Amazon.com, Microsoft, Seattle Public Schools, and University of Washington have the greatest number of entry-level job postings seeking talent who have these skills.
The fields of business, information technology, as well as manufacturing and production show high demand in Seattle for a unique combination of skills connected to effective communication, improvement, and decision-making (see Chart 3). In particular, these fields are seeking entry-level talent who are good listeners and self-starters with strong decision-making capabilities. Listening is connected to effective communication as well as learning(iii), whereas motivation (self-starters) and decision-making are connected to continuous improvement and innovation.(iv) Employers such as Amazon.com, Boeing, Microsoft and University of Washington have the greatest number of entry-level job postings seeking talent who have these skills.
In summary, entry-level workers in Seattle are expected to come prepared to their first day of work with an array of soft skills and technical skills. Research from nearly 100 years ago shows that 85 percent of success on the job comes from having soft skills versus 15 percent of success coming from having technical skills.(v) That said, soft skills are considered more challenging to teach than hard skills.(vi) Soft skills, such as relationship building and problem-solving, often allow for more productive and collaborative teams. Given the high demand among local employers, it is crucial that the workforce system find the best way to build and sustain these skills among all individuals regardless of their level of education and tenure in the labor market. When it comes to soft skills, previous research conducted by SJI shows that employers believe the responsibility for their development and cultivation lies on the employees themselves as well as the education system.(vii)
i. SJI analyzed 44,725 entry-level job postings from 2011 and 102,151 from 2016 to compile the findings in this report. The job posting data was accessed via Burning Glass Labor Insight and was specific to the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA metropolitan statistical area.
ii. The Issue with Soft Skills and Your Resume
Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/05/10/the-issue-with-soft-skills-and-your-resume
iii. Listening to People
Available at: https://www.hbr.org/1957/09/listening-to-people
iv. Ross, V. E., Kleingeld, A. W., & Lorenzen, L. (2004). A topographical map of the innovation landscape. The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, 9(2), 1-19.
v. The Soft Skills Disconnect
Available at: http://www.nationalsoftskills.org/the-soft-skills-disconnect/
vi. Soft skills in demand but hard to teach, employers say
Available at: http://www.newsday.com/business/columnists/jamie-herzlich/soft-skills-are-in-demand-but-hard-to-teach-employers-say-1.13157849
vii. Pritchard, J. (2013). The Importance of Soft Skills in Entry-Level Employment and Postsecondary Success: Perspectives from Employers and Community Colleges
Available at: http://www.seattlejobsinitiative.com/wp-content/uploads/SJI_SoftSkillsReport_vFINAL_1.17.13.pdf
—[h6]Beyond the Headlines[/h6] Policy & Labor Market Updates for Those Working to Help Low-Income and Low-Skill Individuals Advance through Education, Training & Living-Wage Jobs
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Author: Bryce Jones
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