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Looking for a Few Good Hires : Jobs: Although more people are looking for work, county employers in basic service and manufacturing still can't find the ones they need.


SANTA ANA — Although tens of thousands of Orange County residents are out of work, the increased number of job seekers hasn't translated into any greater number of qualified applicants in some of the basic service and manufacturing industries.

In a survey of employers in 25 job categories during the first half of 1991, researchers found that many had trouble finding people who met their minimum standards while others complained that recently hired workers lacked basic language, math and comprehension skills.

The study, sponsored by the Orange County Private Industry Councils and the state Employment Development Department, marked the second consecutive year that a large number of employers complained of workers who couldn't follow simple instructions, solve problems on their own or write or speak clearly.

The survey of nearly 400 employers, conducted from April through July, when Orange County's average unemployment rate was at a seven-year high of 5.1%, also found that most employers were subdued about their hiring plans through the end of 1994.

That bolsters projections by bank forecasters and economists at Chapman University in Orange that the county's job scene will remain static this year and grow slowly through mid-decade.

Where job growth is expected--in just seven of the 25 categories--is in the business and personal services areas.

Employers said they anticipated growing need for registered nurses, home health care workers, paralegals, legal secretaries, electronics and electrical engineering technicians, office machine repair workers and truck drivers.

A special limited survey of several job categories with only a few county-based employers also identified a growing demand for environmental hazardous materials technicians--people to identify, sort, transport and prepare hazardous materials for disposal.

The study is part of a statewide effort, launched in 1986 in Northern California, to identify future employment needs so private and publicly funded job training programs could better serve the business community. It focuses mainly on blue-collar and service jobs for which a high school, trade school or two-year college diploma is the maximum educational requirement.

The initial Orange County survey was conducted in 1990. The report released Tuesday covers the second Orange County survey.

Margo West, planning manager for the county's Community Services Agency, said the reports "fill a critical need" because training agencies lack information on job demand and wage scales. The surveys are designed to provide current data on what employers pay and what kinds of skills they seek.

Wages in the current survey ranged widely, from the state minimum of $4.25 an hour for trainee sewing machine operators and food workers to $30 an hour for electrical engineering technicians with at least three years' experience.

Each year's survey will cover 25 to 30 of the nearly 900 job categories recognized by the state and federal governments.

Categories in the 1991 survey include:

Amusement and recreation attendants; combination machine tool operators and tenders; combination machine tool setters and set-up operators; data processing equipment repairers; electrical and electronic engineering technicians and technologists; food service managers and home health care workers.

Also, insurance policy processing clerks; legal secretaries; machine tool cutting operators and tenders; machinists; maintenance repairers/general utility; nurse aides; office machine and cash register servicers; paralegal personnel; plastic molding and casting machine setters and set-up operators, and registered nurses.

Others are sewing machine operators/garment and non-garment; truck drivers/heavy or tractor-trailer and light duty, including delivery and route workers; waiters and waitresses; welders and cutters and welding machine fitters and set-up operators.

Matching Jobs and Workers

A new survey of employers in 25 basic county job categories shows that most pay less than $500 a week and that, despite increasing unemployment, many are having difficulty finding qualified applicants with good basic skills.

Best Pay

The five job categories with the highest median pay for new hires:

1. Registered Nurses 2. Heavy Truck Drivers (Unionized) 3. Paralegal Personnel 4. Legal Secretaries 5. Electrical, Electronic Engineering Technicians Lowest Pay The bottom five in median pay for new hires:

1. Amusement, Recreation Attendants 2. Plastic molding, casting machine set-up operators 3. Nursing Aides 4-5. Sewing machine operators: garment, non-garment Shortage of Applicants

Employers in many categories said they have difficulty finding qualified people.

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