Sales reps, teachers among most in demand

Attention job-seekers and college grads: Your best chance of getting a job may be to consider a career in sales, teaching or as a mechanic.

A survey released Thursday by temporary staffing agency Manpower Inc. says that U.S. employers counted those as the top three hardest jobs to fill in 2007.

Other employees that are most sought after included truck drivers, accountants and machine operators, the survey said.

“Sales representative” — which includes everyone from hourly retail workers to white-collar corporate sales experts — also was the hardest job to fill in 2006.

Melanie Holmes, Manpower’s vice president of corporate affairs, said that finding wasn’t too surprising since many companies are boosting sales staffs to fuel revenue growth. Also, forecasters have said demand for sales jobs will increase dramatically in the coming years.

She thinks the crunch could push some employers to offer more flexible schedules or other perks to lure employees.

“We all need to be working towards being the employer of choice in our individual communities or (companies) aren’t going to find and keep the people that we need,” she said.

In other industries, Manpower saw more dramatic changes over 2006. In last year’s survey, for example, engineer and nurse ranked as the second and third hardest jobs to fill, while teacher and mechanic took those spots this year.

Holmes credited the healthcare profession with battling a looming staffing shortage in part by recruiting more nurse's aids who could do less-skilled work. That, in turn, has reduced the shortage of skilled nurses and given them more time for complex tasks.

On the other hand, Holmes said experts are forecasting a need for hundreds of thousands more teachers over the next decade. That, combined with current teachers retiring or leaving the profession, could create big woes in education.

George Jackson, a spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers, said he thinks it has long been difficult to recruit and keep teachers in districts where poverty, crime and behavior problems are rampant. That’s partly because of wages, he said, but teachers in those areas also complain that they don’t receive enough support and professional development.

Jackson also noted that between 40 percent and 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years.

“Teacher retention is a problem, because this is a profession that’s difficult,” he said.

Still, Jackson said he doesn’t think this is a new problem that’s increased dramatically just in the past year, but rather an ongoing issue that is especially problematic in inner-city and low-income districts.

The American Federation of Teachers represents about 1.5 million workers in various professions, including about 875,000 teachers.

Overall, Manpower said 41 percent of U.S. employers said they had difficulty filling jobs. That’s down from 44 percent last year, the survey said.

Milwaukee-based Manpower’s survey included nearly 37,000 employers worldwide. In the U.S., about 2,400 companies were surveyed.

Worldwide, the study said the top three hardest jobs to fill were sales representatives, skilled manual trade worker and technician. A skilled manual trade worker typically refers to someone who is trained in a very specific skill, often via an apprenticeship or other formal process.