business

Can Philly attract the talent it needs?

Jane M. Von Bergen, Staff Writer

Updated: Thursday, September 21, 2017, 12:53 PM

A job seeker stops at a table offering resume critiques during a job fair.

Philadelphia has a thriving restaurant scene, affordable living compared with nearby metro areas, and great culture. But job seekers say they are reluctant to come here — not because of the jobs they are currently seeking, but because they see fewer chances to snag the next ones, a survey by a recruitment media company shows.

“Philly has an image problem,” said Joe Weinlick, senior vice president of marketing at Nexxt, the King of Prussia-based firm that sliced and diced 600 responses to a survey of Philadelphia job seekers conducted about two weeks ago. Nexxt operates job boards and tries to connect job seekers with employers, communicating with both via advertising, texts, and emails.

Beyond Comcast, “people don’t realize that we have major companies here,” Weinlick said, ticking off global operations such as AmerisourceBergen, the wholesale-drug distributor; Saint-Gobain, the French-owned building-materials company; and Bimbo, the multinational baker with U.S. headquarters in Horsham.

It was strictly coincidental that Nexxt did the survey just as Amazon put out its request for proposals for a location for a second headquarters and Philadelphia officials scrambled to bring the online giant here, Weinlick said.

“Of course, if Philadelphia can seriously compete and win the new Amazon headquarters, that would give us an immediate shot in the arm,” he said.

Those responding to the survey liked the city’s affordability and culture, but they worried about future job opportunities. Fifty-eight percent said there were fewer opportunities in their specific fields, and 63 percent felt there was more competition in their fields. Nearly two-thirds said there were fewer companies to work for, as well as fewer exciting companies. And 56 percent said there were far fewer opportunities to learn and grow in their career fields.

Weinlick, whose career includes a long stint in advertising, brings that perspective to the results. Philadelphia companies, he said, need to market themselves more. “There’s a Philadelphia ethos that we shouldn’t blow our own horn.”

His advertising past reveals itself in a common lament from that industry in Philly — that somehow their advertising talent always is obscured “in the shadow of New York, and when it comes to employment, it seems the same way.”

However, the survey notes that transplants to Philadelphia tend to come from other cities, particularly New York (16 percent), Washington (5 percent), and Los Angeles (5 percent). They like the mix of affordability and urban culture.

But they’d also be willing to move to even smaller cities if those cities could match the pay that Philadelphia companies offer. When considering a job offer, “competitive pay,” “a positive work environment,” and the “length of the commute” were key. When accepting an offer, salary was most important, followed by company reputation and work schedule.

Once people are here, they are likely to stay. Of the survey respondents who are currently employed, 46 percent said they hope to remain in Philadelphia for the rest of their careers. Having an office close to a variety of great locations and activity options is the top benefit of working here, the survey found.

Jane M. Von Bergen, Staff Writer

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