Some local employers are struggling to find what they call quality employees, who do more than just show up and clock in, according to Christina Currie, Craig Chamber of Commerce executive director. She said business owners have complained that many new entrants into the workforce lack basic skills and work ethic. Currie is part of the Moffat County Work and Life Skills Program Coalition, which is targeted at developing students' 21st-century work force skills.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Some local employers are struggling to find what they call quality employees, who do more than just show up and clock in, according to Christina Currie, Craig Chamber of Commerce executive director. She said business owners have complained that many new entrants into the workforce lack basic skills and work ethic. Currie is part of the Moffat County Work and Life Skills Program Coalition, which is targeted at developing students' 21st-century work force skills.

Just punching the clock

Quality employees in high demand but short supply

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— When it comes to finding employees with a strong work ethic, Cindy Looper said she's seen businesses from across the spectrum struggle.

"There's a sense of entitlement," said Looper, co-owner of Elk Run Inn in Craig. "People think they need a paycheck but don't necessarily think they have to show up or do a full day's work."

Yet, not all local businesses are having difficulty finding qualified, quality applicants.

Nikki Webber, Cook Chevrolet office manager, said the company's newest batch of hires has been more qualified than new work force entrants they've had before.

And, as far as finding employees with a good work ethic, "I don't really think that's been a problem," Webber said.

Still, the trouble companies have finding quality workers, if they have it, appears not to be limited to a particular field.

Initially, Looper said, she thought the problem wasn't as pronounced in professional or skilled labor fields.

But, in Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership meetings she's attended, Looper has heard similar complaints from people representing a variety of professions.

"It doesn't seem to matter what type of business you're in," she said.

Looper couldn't speak to what has caused this trend but has seen it at work in the 4 1/2 years she's been in Craig.

Looking at the numbers

A comparison of Moffat County's average weekly wage, however, may indicate why some local employers are having difficulty finding quality workers.

According to the most recently posted data on the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment's Web site, average weekly wages for employees in Moffat County's accommodations and food service industry fall lower than most surrounding counties.

During the first quarter of 2008 - the sole data available on the Web site for this year - Moffat County employees in this field made an average wage of $257 per week. While that's higher than Jackson County's average $236 average weekly wage, Moffat County's average is significantly lower than those of Routt and Rio Blanco counties. Accommodations and food service workings in these counties make an average of $429 and $451 per week, respectively.

The oil and gas industry's presence in and around Moffat County could play a part in the issue. Economists at the Colorado Workforce Center have said high wages offered by the oil and gas industry can be more alluring to qualified applicants than the salaries provided by other local employers, said Bill Thoennes with the Workforce Center's Government, Policy and Public Relations department.

"You don't have to be actually working as geophysicist to actually be working in the industry," he added. "You could be truck driving, only you're driving a truck for the oil industry as opposed to a truck for some other kind of delivery service."

An economist from the Workforce Center could not be reached as of press time Tuesday.

Coalition looks to help

The recently formed Moffat County Work and Life Skills Program Coalition seeks to address the difficulty some employers have in finding quality hires, said Christina Currie, Craig Chamber of Commerce executive director.

The Chamber was one of several organizations, including the Moffat County School District and Colorado Workforce Center, that belong to the coalition. The group has received money from Colorado Works, the state welfare program, to create a program teaching local students skills that apply to the work force and other areas of their lives.

Like Looper, Currie has heard complaints from local employers about new work force members.

"We do get comments from employers that they're not seeing students come with some basic skills," including reading, writing and math, she said. "But the real biggest complaint that I hear is in terms of a work ethic."

Issues ranging from personal hygiene to not arriving to work on time have been the topic of business owners' complaints about employees.

"It's very disappointing to hear some of the feedback that we're getting," Currie said.

And it's not just students who are the cause of grievances. From the feedback she's received, a lack of work ethic seems to be a problem for workers of all ages entering the work force.

Some new hires, it appears, "are having this sense of entitlement when it comes to employability," she said.

An administrator from the Craig Workforce Center declined to comment on the record for this story.

Comments

Really 5 years, 11 months ago

The schools are working really hard to make students AND PARENTS realize that being late and absent all the time is not okay. Same with homework - if you don't have any work ethic in school you sure as h___ aren't going to have it on the job. The parents make excuses for their kids ALL THE TIME and then people wonder why no one works hard!

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DV8 5 years, 11 months ago

It's been my experience that the schools allow kids to turn in work up until the day before they have to submit grades for report cards up until they get into High School, and then only some teachers enforce the deadlines. The schools also pass kids to the next grade, even if they have all F's, because they are concerned that being held back might hurt their feelings.

I really hope your comment means that things are finally changing in the schools.

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