Boone County Joint Communications continues to feel the stress of job vacancies.
Agency representatives joined 10 other employers this week at a hiring event hosted by the Columbia Job Center at the Daniel Boone Regional Library.
Another job fair is scheduled for September 22 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Armory Sports and Recreation Center at 701 E. Ash St. in Columbia. 22 hiring companies will take part in this event.
The lack of shared communication has resulted in a lot of overtime for dispatchers, said Representative Stacie Horrell.
“Someone has to be there to answer the phone,” Horrell said.
There is a multi-step process to becoming a dispatcher, including an initial test and interview. Once a person passes this stage, they advance to the training classes.
“We don’t really have a set number that we’re hiring. We hired up to 10 people at a time,” said Representative Cassie Walton. “We had six in the last grade.”
A full contingent is 61 full-time employees. The joint communications had 33 full-time employees as of Wednesday. There are 28 full-time positions.
Even a new hire is a success, Horrell said.
There are three shifts, each with up to six dispatchers including a supervisor.
“I think a lot of people don’t know what we’re doing,” Horrell said. “We are working to spread the information.”
Joint communications include posting for all law enforcement, fire and emergency services in the county.
“This is an emergency and not an emergency. We’re an independent agency,” Horrell said.
Employers, job seekers on the labor market
Missouri Department of Justice
Another location feeling the weight of having to hire more staff is Boonville Correctional Center. It’s at about 50% capacity with its correctional officers, said Senior Office Support Assistant Felicia Murphy.
Due to the need, the Department of Corrections has changed some of its hiring rules, she added. Correctional officers can now be hired at 18 and no longer require a driver’s license.
Hiring shortages and job demand can depend on a facility’s location, Murphy said. Some have more applicants than positions, while others may have many vacancies but a shortage of applicants.
Also among the job seekers was DJ White, who was interested in a position in the Department of Corrections or in the health sector.
“I’m looking for a career, not just a part-time job,” he said. “It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to try law enforcement and I think the Department of Corrections could be a good first step.
“I have a lot of experience in many industries, so I can do a little bit of everything.”
Melissa Robertson, another job seeker, heard about the Salvation Army Harbor House entry opportunity.
“I am open for everything. I think I could do anything. I just have to sit down and decide what I think is the most rewarding and appropriate,” she said. “I’m leaning toward Boone County or City of Columbia (openings).”
EduStaff, which provides substitute teachers at Columbia Public Schools, knows the need is high and will continue to meet the need, said Representative Carissa Keedy. Replacement requirements have changed. Now, instead of 60, it only takes a person 36 college credit hours to be a deputy.
Those who don’t have 36 credit hours can take a course to earn a replacement certification, Keedy said.
“We try to make sure people are aware (of the class) and let them know, even if they don’t think they’re eligible, there are options,” she said.
There are also roles in schools that don’t require a replacement certification that EduStaff can fill, Keedy said.
“Once the subs are approved and on board, they start to find more of their individual fit at the schools,” she said. “We are looking for people who are passionate and interested and we will help them to be successful.
“We have an orientation workshop where we train subs before they enter a classroom.”
Hitachi Energy (ABB)
One employer at Wednesday’s walk-through event, featuring both skilled and on-the-job training positions, was Hitachi Energy (ABB) of Jefferson City.
“Our company is expanding, so we’re definitely looking to add about 100 jobs at our facility this year,” said Representative Ashley Allen. “We’re looking for people who are looking for a really good company to work for.”
When it comes to making a career change, the big factor for people is competitive wages, she said. The Jefferson City plant generally has 55 job titles. Many receive on-the-job training.
There are some more qualified positions, such as welder, electrical tester or mechanic. These positions typically require prior experience or some type of degree or certification.
Those with previous manufacturing experience could get a sign-up bonus, Allen said.
Hitachi also works with trade schools like the State Technical College to find potential employees.
Participation in job fairs
The Columbia Job Center had a goal of having 50 guests for its Wednesday walk-in event last week. At 46 it was almost time.
But this is above average, wrote Sundi Jo Graham, communications coordinator and manager of the re-entry program at the Central Workforce Development Region, in a follow-up email.
Columbia job fairs typically have 30 attendees. Attendance was generally lower than expected, Graham wrote.
Job fairs are also held in Lebanon, Rolla and Jefferson City.
Participation in the Lebanon events largely depends on the available positions and employers. Two of the four most recent events had specialized positions and a company 50 miles away so it had fewer attendees, Graham wrote.
Another show for a local retailer attracted a lot of interest, she added.
“Participation in the (Lebanon) job fairs was only one applicant out of up to 40,” she wrote.
Rolla had his first job fair of the year on Thursday. 30 employers and 76 participants were present.
Job fairs in Jefferson City average 15 to 20 job seekers with nine employers.
The labor market of the future
A presentation last week at Regional Economic Development Inc. of the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development introduced the job market in Boone County along with the central Missouri region.
About 35,000 people travel to Boone County for work, while nearly 19,000 residents work in neighboring counties. However, the majority of people live and work in Boone County – nearly 53,000. Census data from 2019 was used.
Just over half of Boone County’s employees commuted less than 10 miles to work. About 20,000 people commuted more than 50 miles in or out of the county, with the majority coming or going east or west.
Current high demand jobs with likely 20% growth over 10 years in central Missouri include restaurant waiter; pub keeper restaurant hosting staff; driver and seller; and dishwashers for young professionals. This is based on data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.
Jobs where some prior skill or even an associate degree are likely to still have high demand and growth include restaurant chefs; food preparation regulators; credit interviewers and clerks; welder; and medical assistants.
Software development is expected to grow at least 20% in jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher; loan officer; management analysts; market research analysts; securities and commodities; medical and health service managers; and finance manager.
The job postings last year in Boone County that saw the most job postings included software development; post-secondary teachers; Manager; registered and licensed practical nurses; computer jobs; clinical laboratory technicians, data scientists; and restaurant chefs, based on information from Lightcast.
Software skills were a big focus of job listings, with some of the top cases in Boone County last year involving Tableau, a business intelligence software; Java, a programming language; Linux; Amazon Web Services; and Microsoft Azure, among others.
Charles Dunlap reports on local government, community histories and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CD_CDT on twitter. Please consider subscribing to support important local journalism.