Bureau of Business Research


Date of this Version



Prepared for the Nebraska Department of Labor
Prepared by Dr. Eric Thompson, Assoc. Professor of Economics and Director Bureau of Business Research


his report discusses the results from the Make it Work for Lincoln survey of employers conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bureau of Business Research (UNL-BBR). The survey of employers in the Lincoln Metropolitan Area was conducted under contract with the Nebraska Department of Labor and with the participation of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and ATD-Lincoln. The report examines the types of occupations Lincoln area employers are searching for and hiring, and the types of difficulties employers face when hiring. The survey also asks about the types of training which employers provide. Business responding to the survey reported facing difficulty when hiring workers for most types of occupations. Looking across all occupations, a majority of businesses reported that applicants with a lack of work experience and occupation-specific skills made it difficult to hire. More than four in ten also reported that applicants with a poor work history made it difficult to hire. Failed background checks and “too high” wage demands were cited by approximately one-quarter of employers. Taken together, these issues represent a wide array of challenges in hiring. However, a careful look at these issues by industry and occupation reveal patterns. In particular, employers hiring within a particular occupation may only face one or two significant difficulties, creating a more manageable problem with potentially more actionable solutions. A lack of occupation specific skill was a particular concern for two white collar and two blue collar occupations. Among white collar jobs, the two occupations were managers and computer and mathematical occupations. Among blue collar jobs, the two occupations were installation, maintenance and repair workers and production workers. There may be a particular need to have training certification courses available in these occupations. Workers in blue collar occupations also would benefit from learning skills on the job whether through formal apprenticeship programs or through periods as helpers and other support occupations. Poor work history and failed background checks were a more common concern for selected service workers and blue collar workers. Among services jobs, the occupations were health care support workers and food preparation and serving-related workers. Among blue collar jobs, there was a heightened concern about work history and failed background checks for construction workers and transportation and material moving workers. These results point to a second set of interventions beyond traditional training programs, particularly in these occupations. Specifically, some workers appear to have made themselves difficult to hire due to behaviors that led to a failed background check or a poor work history. One potential area for policy is to design and encourage pathways and practices whereby workers can improve their work history and address issues which are checked on background. Successful efforts in this ii regard could be highly productive for workers. There also could be great benefits to the business community, which would benefit from expansion in the pool of employable workers. Wage rates appear to be a barrier to hiring in a third set of occupations and industries. Businesses in these occupations reported an elevated share of job candidates who make wage demands which are “too high.” This issue impacted the health care industry and four occupation groups in particular: business and professional operations, healthcare practitioners and technical workers, personal care and service occupations and office and administrative support occupations. In these occupations, employees, employers, or both need to adjust their wage expectations. Supply and demand conditions provide insight as to whether employers or workers need to adjust most. There is limited pressure for employers to raise wage scales for business and professional operations workers and office and administrative support workers. These were not occupations where employers had any especially difficult time finding new workers. On the other hand, personal care and service workers were the second most difficult occupation to find workers, according to employers. The second goal of this report was to examine the training which businesses provide to newly hired workers. Respondents to the survey reported that businesses provide job-specific training to newly hired workers in 76 percent of occupations. More than half of employers provide training courses without a certification while over one-third provide certification courses. Less than one in ten employers provides a full college or community college course. Large shares of new hires were provided training in all industries and occupations, although training was less common in several blue collar occupations including construction and extraction workers, production workers, and transportation and material moving workers. Certification courses were most common for computer and mathematical occupations, installation, maintenance and repair occupations, management occupations and personal care and service occupations. Full college or community college courses are most common for these same four occupations as well as for architecture, engineering and science occupations. \ Nearly all workers who received training participated in in-house training. However, responding businesses indicated that out-of-house training was provided to new workers in 28 percent of occupations. Generally speaking, out-of-house training is more likely for new hires in higher skills white collar occupations, with the exception of personal care and service workers. Blue collar occupations are near average in the use of out-of-house training with the exception of the elevated share for installation, maintenance and repair workers. Out-of-house training is least common for lower skill and service occupations.