Iowa Employers Struggle to Fill Vacancies

Date: March 01, 2016 Last Edit: March 02, 2016

Low unemployment rate a double-edged sword.

Iowa Employers Struggle to Fill Vacancies

The New York Times recently drew national attention to a problem small business owners in Iowa have been struggling with: filling vacancies.

The problem is rampant, affecting unskilled and skilled positions alike, across various industries and businesses. The state’s low unemployment rate of 3.4 percent—the sixth lowest in the nation—points to the challenge employers can have finding workers.

Iowa NFIB State Director Kristin Failor says one NFIB member had so much trouble getting employees that she agreed to take people from a prison release work program. One of the inmates who took part quit by 10 a.m. and asked to be sent back to jail.

NFIB’s recent Small Business Economic Trends Report shows that a lack of qualified workers isn’t just a problem for Iowa. Fifteen percent of business owners cited it as their single most important business problem, ranking it number 3 on the list of concerns behind taxes and regulations and red tape, the highest reading since 2007.

The retirement of the baby boomer generation is putting further pressure on the system, with unemployment benefits further motivating workers to stay home, Failor says. A lack of trained, motivated workers in later generations doesn’t help, she adds.

“There seems to be an entitlement mentality with this next generation of employees,” she says. “They want to come in at the top floor and expect more than what a small business can realistically provide at the outset.”

Traditionally, students have been encouraged to attend a four-year college, but employers are pointing out that the importance of a trade school education shouldn’t be overlooked.

Gov. Terry Branstad recently announced a 2016 Future Ready Iowa meeting set for April 19 at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines to help start the conversation on how to close the skills gap and better align education and the workforce. State, national and global experts will address the issue, and residents are invited to register to attend.

Related Content: Small Business News | Economy | Hiring | Iowa | Labor

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