Leon County jobs: A by-the-numbers look at the workforce landscape

From the Tallahassee Democrat

Tallahassee’s job market is ripe for the picking depending on the position and what skills job seekers bring to the table.

The right candidate has choices and room to negotiate a higher salary.

As of April, the average hourly wage for the Tallahassee Metropolitan Statistical Area was $27.77, up from the $24.80 hourly wage average in April 2021, according to state reports.

The problem, in many cases, is matching skilled job seekers with available employment vacancies. Trades, such as heating and air conditioning mechanics and installers, remain in high demand but employers are having trouble filling positions.

Economic development officials also point to ongoing employment challenges in Tallahassee’s healthcare sector that’s created hundreds of job listings for nurses, doctors and other medical positions.

Another workforce hurdle is Leon County’s shrinking labor force.

Pre-pandemic, the local landscape mirrors the national shrinkage, the lowest in U.S. history. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, made the issue worse and created a mass exodus that many companies have yet recover.

Here’s a by-the-numbers look at some of the data that defines the current job market.

Job listings in Leon County – 3,090

As of June 14, there were 3,090 jobs listings posted for Leon County.

One issue job seekers face is how rapidly skillsets are changing across various industries. Skills in demand now are quite different than just five years ago, said Corrie Melton, the vice president of membership and talent development for the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

She pointed to a marketing specialist position as an example.

In 2010, some of the top skills listed included sales, budgeting, market research and Adobe InDesign. Fast forward 10 years, and the same job now puts a heavier focus on social media and product management.

Melton also said there’s an increasing need for tech-based jobs and more digital skills embedded in numerous positions. Automation, she said, isn’t the only means to describe the future of workforce and how companies will function; digital skills are universal.

“I think we just all have to really look at what the future of work looks like and realize that it’s already here,” Melton said.

Advertised listings for registered nurses – 378

The ceaseless need for registered nurses continues nationwide and in Leon County.

There were 378 advertised listings for registered nurses in Tallahassee, mainly posted by Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and HCA Florida Capital Hospital.

“Just like a lot of other areas in the country. There is definitely a healthcare crisis here,” said Trish Yahn, senior director of business solutions, events and special projects at CareerSource Capital Region.

The pandemic, she said, created burnout among nurses and medical professionals. However, the need for more nurses isn’t a new issue, and healthcare facilities have been forced to find ways to manage demand and their resources.

Rebeccah Lutz, director of marketing and communications at TMH, said the hospital is “hyper focused on recruiting and retaining top talent, including nurses and physicians.”

“Thanks to these efforts, we have maintained adequate staffing levels to provide safe and excellent care for our patients and community,” said Lutz, adding the hospital has a pipeline of talent coming from colleges and universities throughout the region. “We have strong relationships with our local colleges and universities and are working closely with them through a variety of programs, scholarships and other creative solutions to help meet our employment needs.”

Lutz went on to say patients in the region should know that TMH is growing and prepared to meet the “region’s healthcare needs now and well into the future.”

Need for certified medical assistants – 240

While certified medical assistant jobs didn’t make the top 10 list for current openings, Leon County has a looming need.

Leon County is projected to need 240 certified medical assistants in the next 12 months, according to a 2021 report from the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Healthcare Employer Collaborative led by the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

Coordinators indicated five critical positions in healthcare; certified medical assistants topped the list, Melton said.

Melton said the TPM group worked with local stakeholders in preparation to meet the workforce need.

For example, she said, Lively Technical College used the data to work with Florida Department of Education to reduce the class hours for their CMA from 1,300 to 765. That allowed more students to participate in the program and enter the workforce sooner.

Another example came from Tallahassee Community College, which received a grant to partner with Tallahassee-based Health Science Consulting to offer the CMA training and certification to more than 200 students.

In addition, Melton said Keiser University front loaded their associates degree in medical assisting to allow students to complete their requirements, then enter the workforce while completing their general education requirements for the degree.

“To date, over 100 students from these three programs have graduated and joined our local healthcare provider team,” Melton said.

Heating, A/C mechanics earn median average salary of $58,750

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earn a median average salary of $58,750 — the No. 6 highest salary in Leon County.

Despite a median average hourly wage is $28.25, many companies have a tough time finding talent.

Buddy Lawson, COO at Keith Lawson Services, said the company has an across-the-board need for all trades, including installers, superintendents, project managers and estimators.

“We feel that a lot of this goes back towards teaching in school,” he said. “Trades have kind of become forgotten art and craft.”

The company isn’t able to serve as many customers at it would like to in order to meet demand, Lawson said.

In addition, he said there’s “a huge age gap” in the applicants interested in potential positions. Lawson said boomers are retiring and the typical potential pipeline consists of 18 and 19 year olds.

“There’s hardly any 30 and 40 year old guys in the field,” Lawson said. “You walk onto a construction site you’ll see a handful of young guys that are trying to cut their teeth and grab an opportunity and climb the ladder. And then you’ll see the ones that are supervision that’s running the show … So, the evolution of them retiring and who’s coming in to fill their shoes, it’s just a struggle.”