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Southern California Job Market : A Special Report On Employment Trends : Industries & Occupations : Secretarial : Offices Need Workers With High-tech Skills

September 20, 1987|HENRY WEINSTEIN | Times Staff Writer

The demand for secretarial and clerical workers is expected to be brisk in Southern California for the next year, according to government officials, employment agencies and personnel managers at a number of large companies.

Opportunities will be particularly good for individuals with strong experience using word processors and personal computers. "People with word processing skills will be more and more in demand," said Jerry Hawbraker, an analyst with the state Employment Development Department in Los Angeles.

Indeed, 42% of the classified advertisements for secretaries now ask for word processing or personal computer skills, up from 39% last year and 25% in 1985, according to Candace Lewis, public relations manager for Professional Secretaries International, a trade group based in Kansas City, Mo.

And, she noted, only 23% of the ads this year list shorthand as a requirement, down from 26% last year and 33% in 1985. "The use of dictation machines has greatly reduced the need for stenographers, and the need for shorthand has decreased every year for the past five years and is projected to continue to go down," she said.

Salaries, already higher for many secretarial and clerical jobs in Southern California than other parts of the country, are expected to rise, experts say, because there is a shortage of qualified applicants.

Larry Drake, an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, said there are two principal causes for the shortages. First, he said, good secretaries are paid less than they are worth. "A good secretary is absolutely essential to keep any office going," he said. (The BLS divides secretaries into five skill levels, with typical salaries ranging from $16,326 to $28,051.)

The other reason for shortages, Drake said, "is that there are more job opportunities for women now as a result of the women's movement."

The shortages also mean that many secretaries are working even harder now, Lewis said, because they are toiling for more than one boss.

The BLS projects that there will be about 564,000 secretarial and clerical jobs available each year nationwide through the year 2000, Drake said. About 30,000 of those jobs each year will be new positions generated by business growth, while the other 534,000 will come from employee turnover.

The government does not have a specific projection for Southern California. But several experts said the region would get at least its per-capita share of these jobs--and probably more--because of economic growth, particularly in financial services, law, insurance and health care.

Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, predicted that there would be a number of openings in advertising agencies, banks and law firms. But, he cautioned, "about half the demand could be for temporaries in the next year."

"The demand is very strong" for temporary secretarial and clerical workers in Southern California, said Carolyn Fryar, senior vice president of Kelly Services, one of the nation's largest temporary agencies. She said the average length of a Kelly placement is 2 1/2 weeks.

Several large employers in the area, however, need full-time people. "We are still looking; it is difficult to find experienced people," said Tom Bonno, second vice president of human resources for Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. in Newport Beach.

"We have seen a tremendous increase in the need for use of word processing and computer skills," he said, particularly individuals who are experienced with Lotus and MultiMate software.

The company will be offering salaries for these jobs ranging from $1,500 to $1,800 a month, depending on skill. "It could go higher if it was someone who had just the background you wanted and years of experience."

Peter Barker, partner and co-manager of the Los Angeles area office of Goldman, Sachs & Co., said the investment banking firm expects to hire 10 new secretarial and clerical people in its downtown Los Angeles office as a result of expansion over the next year, and perhaps two or three others as a result of turnover. "Everybody would need to operate word processors or personal computers," he said, adding that two of the new hires would have to be very experienced with such equipment.

Claudia Smith, Goldman's vice president for administration in Los Angeles, added that "we have software written specifically for our needs in this office, and we train on that."

Smith said Goldman prefers that its clerical people have a four-year college degree, but "we certainly will consider people with two-year degrees, depending on their abilities." She would not discuss specific salaries but said that the company was "competitive with the industry" and had a bonus program that last year came to 24% of salary.

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