Skills Gap Analysis & Sector Strategies

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In mid-2016, WorkForce Central on behalf of the Workforce Development Council commissioned studies of the top six employment sectors within Pierce County. The studies examined workforce supply and demand through 2023 alongside targeted stakeholder feedback to build a comprehensive picture of the Pierce County workforce. 

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 Nearly half of Pierce County's workers commute out of the county for work. Pierce County has more workers than jobs, but employers aren’t enjoying the benefits of the surplus. Employers compete for qualified workers with Seattle and King County, where wages tend to be higher and “brand name” companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing attract candidates due to perceptions around prestige and opportunities for advancement.

To learn more, download our at-a-glance summary here

For a comprehensive overview of the data, click here.


 

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Health Care

Health care is Pierce County’s largest private industry, comprising more than 15 percent of the county’s total employment. When combined with government employment, more than 43,700 people work in health care in the county. 

  • “Direct care” is the fastest-growing segment in the industry
    • Projected growth rate of 2 percent annually through 2023
    • Direct care occupations include certified nursing assistants, medical assistants, and home health and personal care aides
  • Demand for registered nurses exceeds supply, creating an ongoing shortage over the next several years.

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Construction Industry

Employing more than 24,460 people in Pierce County, construction is the second-largest industry in Pierce County. Demand for workers is not expected to ease: construction is one of the fastest-growing industries in the county. 

  • Average annual wage of $60,899—nearly $3,000 more than the regional average wage
  • Construction provides a viable career option regardless of education level

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Military & Defense

Not including the 33,000 active duty military personnel stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the industry employs about 12,460 workers, including more than 9,000 civilians employed on-base. Notably, Pierce County’s defense industry received more than $490 million in Department of Defense contracts in 2015 alone.

  • JBLM provides a strong supply of talented workers and programs that help match transitioning service members with jobs
  • Highly-skilled retired military personnel may not have adequate access to commercial credentials or certifications to meet job requirements

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Transportation, Warehousing & Logistics 

The transportation, warehousing and logistics industry is highly concentrated in Pierce County, employing 12,000 workers and 14 percent of the statewide workforce for the industry.

  • Stakeholders report difficulty hiring and retaining qualified workers due to deficiencies in basic math and essential/soft skills
  • Employers in this industry compete for workers with companies in Seattle or King County that pay higher wages
  • They also compete with other industries, such as construction and advanced manufacturing, for similarly qualified candidates

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ICT & Cybersecurity

Though small compared to King County, the ICT and cybersecurity industry has a growing presence in Pierce County. Employers find it easy to fill entry-level positions but difficult to fill mid- to senior-level positions. Cybersecurity occupations (information security analysts in particular) are projected to see the strongest growth through 2023.

  • Wages in ICT and cybersecurity are higher than the regional average
  • Local employers compete with King County employers who offer higher pay and “brand name” opportunities for advancement
  • Additionally, employers face increasing competition from virtually all other industries as information technology grows more integral to the modern economy

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Advanced Manufacturing

Pierce County is part of a four-county region with a thriving advanced manufacturing industry, including aerospace, computer equipment and ship building. Employers find online job boards difficult to work with and inefficient in producing qualified applicants for their open positions. They prefer recruiting directly through workforce development programs.

  • Basic math and essential/soft skills appear to be the biggest obstacle to finding qualified candidates
  • Many employers willingly train employees internally but risk losing their investment when the trained worker leaves for other jobs either within the industry or in competing industries like construction

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