RI LEAGUE OF CITIES AND TOWNS
8TH ANNUAL CONVENTION
The 8th Annual Convention for the RILCT is an event devoted to providing programming updates, and resources to the municipalities in Rhode Island. They also allow companies to pay to exhibit at this event, which was held this year at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick. About 80 companies paid for the privilege of promoting their goods and services to municipal employees who attended workshops throughout the day. The attendees included town planners and engineers, city clerks, tax assessors, strategic planners and other city government titles, while the exhibitors ranged in services from health insurance providers to financing institutions, from traffic congestions solutions to engineering firms, and from storage centers to environmental systems.... oh, and of course there was one company there promoting cost effective recruiting resources :) Sorry, but I just can't pass up a shameless plug.
I attended this event with one of our outreach consultants, and we spoke with dozens of municipal employees from various cities and towns across the state, and spent a great deal of time also talking with other businesses vying for budget dollars of those municipalities. Overall, there was a great deal of interest about the recruiting industry in RI, and people seemed very interested in the price savings available through our service. Now, that may sound like an obvious statement, but truly it's a little surprising, and perhaps indicative of the reaction to recent stories about local economic slow downs, and the national dialogue of the dreaded R word. The reason I say it's surprising is that price hasn't been the hot button issue in recruiting in RI over the past few years. Most organizations, including the public sector, were very happy to pay the rising costs for employment advertising, to stay with what has long been the cornerstone of job posting- print media. While most of the country has made the turn to the internet, and realized the increased flexibility, reach, and cost savings, RI-based employers have held tight to the state's pre-eminent newspaper. Price was not the most important issue; for many it was simply the maintenance of the status quo which drove the recruitment advertising decision-making, particularly in those businesses that have long bureaucratic lineages.
SO, this development of price, value, and return on investment as a key analytical metric in the Ocean State is a new story. Here are some quick bullets on some of the other recurring issues we heard from the front lines of the recruiting market in RI:
- Budgets are expected to be very tight this year
- Not much job growth is expected, though most understood that turnover would continue to be a reality. This year's question will be how do they stay fully staffed and find good, qualified candidates, while operating with a lower budget for recruiting
- A significant number of mature workers are facing the prospect of a transitional work period. Those close to retirement age feel that the budget cuts may include them, so are facing he prospect of finding a new job for a few years to bridge the gap to social security, and even fill in the household budget holes left by insufficient retirement savings.
- Employers are very concerned about the Brain Drain. Keeping the young professionals in the state is a concern of every region of the country, but in RI, with the borders so close, and the chatter of the economic outlook being bleak, people are very conscious of this issue.
- Engineering continues to be a very competitive field, and while recent college grads can be found, many firms are continuing to have difficulty finding those 3-5 year experience candidates.
The University of Maine is the largest post-secondary school in the state, and offers a wide variety of programs, with their engineering school being one of the most respected. On January 30th, they hosted more than 160 employers to the career event to meet their students. Indeed, there were engineering firms from as far away as Texas exhibiting to attract these fresh faced soon to be graduates to their companies. Our business is currently recruiting for Software developers, Database administrators, and sales, so we were collecting resumes and meeting students as well. I have attended career fairs at nearly all the colleges and universities in ME, NH, VT, and RI, over the past 4 years, private and public, so it's always fun to compare the preparedness and quality of students at these events to the rest.
I have to say, in all honesty, that the overwhelming majority of students that we saw and spoke with were well dressed, prepared to ask and answer questions, armed with updated resumes, and actively looking to impress. For those of you reading this blog, I'm sure you'll find it to be no surprise that despite graduating in just a few months, many many students still are not sure what they want to do. The engineering program at UMaine is strong, and the students graduating from that program were very focused on their potential jobs, while many other majors, such as New Media Studies, English, Business Administration, to name a few, were only vaguely aware of what real-world opportunities would satisfy their dreams and desires.
(I always have to laugh when I meet with students, and ask them what kind of work they are looking for, and they look me square in the eyes with their power-business-woman-makeup or their almost-a-beard-facial-hair covering their young and naive faces, and say simply, "management". I normally respond to this question by asking, what type of management are they interested in, to which I usually get a blank look followed by "well, any kind of management really." Please know that I say this with the greatest humility and humor, as almost all of us were in their shoes at some time)
In speaking with some of the other exhibitors close to us, we heard a great deal of optimism at the front lines of the recruiting market. Local businesses felt that these graduates were very strong candidates, and that the business climate in ME would be mildly insulated from any potential R word, as we have such a unique economic profile and entrepreneurial spirit. Most organizations had a great deal of respect for the education that UMaine provided, and felt that while students will always lack real-world skills, the career services and department heads have done a great job of readying the student body for the labor market.
Students, on the other hand, always seem filled with an almost manic bipolarism of unbridled confidence and optimism, combined with an underlying concern of the lack of time that they have to find the right job, and the fear of making the wrong career decision. We spent a great deal talking with students in the business administration program who were interested in our business, a Maine based business which has had tremendous growth over 8 years. Many of the students were keenly interested in becoming a manager, but were not sure about the process to get from college grad to mid-level manager to senior manager. I really enjoy providing resume tips, career exploration advice, and ideas for resources that can help students find out what kind of work will really make them happy.
IF anyone knows of good resources to help kids assess their options, I'd love to hear them. Thanks!