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Southern California Job Market : A Special Report On Employment Trends : Workplace Issues : Some Jobs Go Begging

September 20, 1987|PATRICK McMAHON | Times Staff Writer

Want to be the Los Angeles stand-in for Gumby, that mushy green cartoon character? It pays $45 for a 45-minute appearance. The job is open and not that easy to fill.

Then there's a California sprout grower who is looking for a district sales representative. Or how about being a fish reporter who gathers radio information three hours a night for the 976-TUNA call-in line.

Job Bank, a Los Angeles area employment firm, keeps track of such unusual jobs. But these days it is not just odd jobs that are available.

In Long Beach, the need is for hotel workers. The state employment service has openings right now for six waiters and waitresses, four front-desk clerks, four room cleaners, three hosts or hostesses, three bellhops and three people to bus tables.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 22, 1987 Home Edition Business Part 4 Page 2 Column 5 Financial Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
The Job Factory, with offices in Westwood and Hollywood, is a full-range employment firm that specializes in unusual jobs. A story in Sunday's Southern California Job Market supplement gave the wrong name.

Throughout much of metropolitan Los Angeles, there are openings for highly skilled clerical personnel who can take dictation, type at least 60 to 80 words per minute and perform other tasks, says Steve Dimitroff, a research manager for the California Employment Development Department. "We are on the verge of a clerical crisis."

And at the massive TRW space and defense plant in Redondo Beach, they are looking for trained machinists. In the next year, the manufacturing division hopes to hire 130 assemblers, machinists and electronic technicians, and it is scouring the United States to find them.

"The population in the machining area is aging," explains TRW spokeswoman Barbara Burke. "The average age of our most experienced machinists is 56. . . . People just aren't going into the vocational fields anymore."

With unemployment at its lowest level in a decade and with the age, skills and opportunities of the nation's work force changing, some jobs are no longer classified hard-to-find. In fact, more and more jobs fall into the hard-to-fill category. And matching willing workers with available jobs is not always an easy task.

A booming economy in the Northeast, for instance, has pushed fast-food restaurants and other service establishments to boost their pay levels to find and keep workers. In Los Angeles, the crackdown on illegal immigrants is squeezing the labor supply for the apparel industry and for California agriculture. Temporary employment firms, on the other hand, often thrive in trying to help employers cope with shortages.

Why are positions hard to fill? Ray Marcy, senior vice president of Adia Personnel Services in Menlo Park, Calif., offers six of the most common reasons: The position is unique and only a handful of people can do the job. It's specialized and requires certain kinds of experience or advanced education. The pay scale is lower than the market value. The opening is in a remote location. The working conditions are unattractive. Or, the hours are irregular or unusual.

Pay, job skills and working conditions aren't the only factors that create hard-to-fill jobs. "The cost of living in Los Angeles can be a problem," TRW's Burke says. "Not so much the cost of living as the cost of housing." That can be a factor in trying to woo engineers from other locations, she notes. "In Texas, you can buy a house for $45,000 that might cost you $240,000 here."

The cost of downtown parking is a major problem for employers in every major metropolitan area, notes Richard E. Lewis, president of Accountants Overload.

"It's a big, big problem today," he says. It is very difficult "getting any kind of employee with any kind of skill to come downtown because of the cost of parking." Workers are increasingly reluctant to commute long distances and, "more and more, most working people in all disciplines at the senior level want positions close to home," he said.

Robert O. Snelling Sr., chairman of Snelling & Snelling, a large employment firm based in Sarasota, Fla., ticks off eight employment areas with hard-to-fill jobs.

1. Handling the sick or the disturbed: physical therapists, nurses, nurse's aides, paramedics and police. "The work is hard, it's demanding and it's dangerous," he says through a spokesman. "We have people here faced with physical violence, worries about getting AIDS and communicable diseases and, of course, the hours and work schedules are devastating to normal family life."

Nurses seem to top the demand list right now, employment experts say, as women find a wider variety of job opportunities in health care at a time when the work of nurses in hospitals is increasingly intense and stressful.

2. Sales. "There is a vast shortage of salespeople of all kinds," Snelling says. "We have been brought up in an age which puts down salesmanship as a profession, especially if one is paid a commission. It is considered demeaning to have your income tied to selling something to someone. That's why companies work hard to disguise sales jobs. They call them marketing or service or consulting jobs."

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