In fact, a survey of Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) members found that recruiting skilled workers is the single greatest issue affecting businesses today.
And for skilled workers, particularly those fresh out of college and just entering the job market, making industry connections can be difficult, as unemployment remains high.
Connecting northern Nevada companies with a local, skilled workforce pool is what EDAWN set out to accomplish at its Business BUZZ forum Thursday on the University of Nevada, Reno campus.
Representatives from area higher education institutions and executives from local companies participated in the forum, addressing the many ways that student recruitment efforts can benefit the bottom line.
“Make sure you develop relationships with the university,” said Steve Strickland, principal of Wood Rogers, Inc., an engineering firm with offices in Reno.
Through paid internships, apprenticeships and even commission-based sales, local companies can hire students to contribute on a part-time basis. And this can often lead to more permanent work.
Several forum speakers said they had promoted interns to full-time staffers after their schooling was complete, and because a working relationship had already formed, the transition was smooth.
John Fox, CEO of Reno-based green energy firm Electratherm, said he requires all his managers to have at least one intern working for them at all times.
“I think you’ll find that I’m an outlier when it comes to believing in interns,” Fox said.
That’s because he was one himself.
Companies also can connect with prospective employees by contributing to the curriculum at colleges and universities.
For example, Jared Lindwall, a business development manager with the Bender Group, told attendees about a supply-chain management program his firm developed at UNR.
“The leadership roles in Bender are now filled by supply-chain management graduates,” Lindwall said.
Although the program was buried last year because of budget cuts, similar programs might rise from the ashes, or at least take a page from this forerunner.
At Western Nevada College, a manufacturing collaborative allows businesses to participate in a custom-training program where employees receive course credit and new skills. An advisory committee has been formed to help manage the program.
Meanwhile, area schools offer free online job boards, career and internship fairs and student organizations, all of which help to connect those entering the workforce with a company that suits their skills.
Of course, connecting the right employee with the right business often requires a strategy more traditional in nature.
“Nothing beats personal, face-to-face contact,” said Jim New, associate dean of Truckee Meadows Community College.