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NY Fed poll: Skilled factory, service workers hard to find

John Lombardo, associate vice president for Economic Development

John Lombardo, associate vice president for Economic Development at Suffolk County Community College, in a robotics lab at SCCC Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Service businesses in the metropolitan area and manufacturers throughout New York State are having trouble finding skilled workers, according to a new survey.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York Wednesday released its April poll of executives at factories, retailers and other service-related companies in which they said job candidates with a deep knowledge of computers had been scarce recently.

On a sliding scale, where 0 means prospective workers were plentiful and 100 means they were very difficult to find, the responses of factories and service businesses averaged 63 points and 50 points, respectively, for candidates with advanced computer skills.

Among manufacturers, employees who are punctual and reliable also were tough to locate (56 points), followed by those with basic math skills (54 points).

For service firms, employees with interpersonal skills were hard to find (47 points) followed by those who are punctual and reliable (40 points).

"In general, difficulty ratings for most of the skill categories were considerably higher among manufacturers than service sector respondents -- particularly for basic skills," the New York Fed said. "This was also the case in earlier surveys" going back to 2006.

Wednesday was the first time that the bank had publicly released the poll results.

On Long Island, an educator who works with companies said he had heard from employers seeking training to improve worker skills.

"We see a lot of the problems you are talking about, but we have a variety of ways of mitigating them," said John Lombardo, associate vice president for workforce and economic development at Suffolk County Community College.

For nearly a decade the college has provided customized training for local plants at its Brentwood campus. It also has a corporate training center for other types of businesses, also in Brentwood.

"You are going to find some weaknesses in math, you are going to find some weaknesses in English," Lombardo said. "However, we provide solutions for that, such as remedial math and English as a second language classes."

He also said the college often receives training referrals from New York State, the Aerospace and Defense Diversification Alliance in Peacetime Transition, and HIA-LI, formerly known as the Hauppauge Industrial Association.

Separately, the New York Fed said manufacturers and service companies both predicted their workers' salaries would, on average, increase more than 2 percent in the next year. They had predicted similar wage gains in the prior two years.

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