Help wanted!

That’s the mantra of many 2019 Top Workplaces in the Philadelphia region as they look at their hiring plans for the next 12 months. Fortunately for them, the prospects of finding the right employees locally are promising, according to nonprofit Philadelphia Works, the workforce development board for Philadelphia County.

“One of the important trends is that we have hiring going on in all skills levels,” Meg Shope Koppel, chief research officer for the Center City-based group, said of the 11-county metropolitan statistical area (MSA) that has more than 3 million residents at work in this wider Philadelphia region.

That means all education levels — high school graduates (low skills), post-high school training but not a four-year college degree (medium skills), and college graduates and beyond (high skills) — have plenty of opportunities.

Here are some of the fastest-growing in-demand occupations for each skill level, according to Koppel’s analysis of 2019 data from labor market advisers Emsi and analytics software company Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insights.

  • Low skills: Customer service reps, freight and stock material movers, truck drivers, supervisors of food prep and food servers, and retail sales supervisors.
  • Medium skills: Health technologists and technicians, wholesale and manufacturing sales reps, food service managers, app developers, and paralegals.
  • High skills: Nurses, computer system engineers, management analysts, financial analysts, and financial services sales agents.

One concern, however, is that there are not enough opportunities for middle-skills folks in the Philadelphia region.

“That’s something we’re working on a lot and will improve over time,” Koppel said, noting prospects in health care and computer programming for those without a bachelor’s degree. “Middle skills offer the opportunity of really good paying jobs without paying for the full four-year degree. It can be a stepping stone. Those jobs really create a career choice, not just a job, that can lead to wherever you want to go.”

Mostly, though, the jobs outlook is bright.

“We’re really booming in professional, scientific, and technical services in the region,” said Koppel. That’s a sector ripe for more growth, especially with interest from venture capitalists and the region’s density of research universities as well as start-up incubators, she added. Professional, scientific, and technical services “is a great driver for everything else, because that’s where R&D comes from, and that’s a predictor of how your other industries do as well.”

Top Workplace Vertex, for one, is growing gangbusters. The King of Prussia-based company that provides tax technology and services had “an extraordinary sales year in 2018,” said director of talent acquisition Craig Single, and plans to hire for more than 100 jobs locally, possibly as high as 140, and a few dozen more globally.

Jobs include customer support and consulting spots as well as software development and operational areas.

“We have continued to be the only provider offering customers hybrid solutions to their corporate tax needs,” Single said. “Every area of the business, from sales, software development, consulting, and all operational areas, have expanded to keep pace with our organic growth.”

The tight job market, though, poses challenges.

Unemployment nationally was 3.8 percent as of February. While the MSA for January was higher at 4.1 percent, it is still very much a job seeker’s market.

“This makes hiring especially challenging,” Single said. He noted the company has looked outside the region at times to fill open positions but mostly finds recruits locally. “We have been successful … by enabling the business to make quick hiring decisions in this candidates’ market.”

Besides professional, technical, and scientific services, growing industries prominent in the region include health care and social assistance; finance and insurance; educational services; and arts, entertainment, and recreation, Koppel’s analysis found.

Other healthy industries with a smaller footprint in the area include accommodation and food services and construction, she said.

For millennials, ages 23 to 38, and Gen Zers, the oldest in their early 20s, the job outlook is strong. “The jobs are getting more and more interesting,” Koppel said. “Young people want to live in the city. We’re an affordable city. It all comes together to make it a pretty nice package for someone young looking for first professional jobs.”

Independence Blue Cross (IBC), a 2019 Top Workplace, said it expected to hire about 500 people for roles that include customer service, sales, actuarial, technology, research and analytics, data science, and government markets. The Philadelphia-based health insurance organization also plans to recruit nurses and doctors.

“Our region is so rich with talent and employment prospects, which is one of the reasons we prefer and most often recruit locally for our positions,” said Jeanie Heffernan, IBC executive vice president and chief human resources officer.

The hardest jobs to fill often require specific skills, she said, and low unemployment only adds to the headache. For example, the insurer is looking for a diabetes health coach who has credentials as a registered nurse and as a certified diabetes educator.

“In some cases, it is taking us longer to find candidates for specific needs,” Heffernan said.

While manufacturing is not considered a growth industry, it is the second most important contributor to the Gross Regional Product in the MSA, Koppel said. “Therefore,” she said, “efforts to keep manufacturing healthy in the region are critical.”

Clemens Food Group is doing its part. The Hatfield pork supplier, a Top Workplace, usually recruits 20 to 25 workers each week, potentially bringing in 1,000-plus new employees over a year, mostly from Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks Counties and the Lehigh Valley, according to Keith Stahler, Clemens’ director of communications.

“We’re constantly growing,” he said. Most of Clemens’ openings are entry-level, hourly production and warehouse spots, available because of “growth both from a sales perspective and from our team members growing internally into positions that have more responsibility.”

For many employers, the Philadelphia region clearly is economically strong with a favorable future in sight.

Said Koppel: “This is the place to be.”

One concern in the labor market is that there are not enough opportunities for middle-skills folks in the Philadelphia region.
Matt Rourke / Matt Rourke / AP Photo
One concern in the labor market is that there are not enough opportunities for middle-skills folks in the Philadelphia region.

Here are some of the 2019 Top Workplaces expecting to hire locally over the next 12 months:

Vertex

What: Tax technology products and services

Headquarters: King of Prussia

Jobs in region: 100-140 plus

Independence Blue Cross

What: Health insurance

Headquarters: Philadelphia

Jobs in region: 500

Clemens Food Group

What: Pork supplier

Headquarters: Hatfield

Jobs in region: 1,000 plus

Panda Restaurant Group

What: Parent company of Panda Inn, Panda Express and Hibachi-San

Headquarters: Rosemead, Calif.

Jobs in region: 150

Slalom Consulting

What: Consulting

Headquarters: Seattle

Jobs in region: 40-50

SPIN

What: Nonprofit social services for those with autism

Headquarters: Philadelphia

Jobs in region: 125 plus

Toll Brothers

What: Homebuilders

Headquarters: Horsham

Jobs in region: 200

CardConnect

What: Payment technology

Headquarters: King of Prussia

Jobs in region: 60

Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Co.

What: Property and casualty insurance

Headquarters: Philadelphia

Jobs in region: 25

Turnersville Auto Mall

What: Car dealership

Headquarters: Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Jobs in region: 100

Apply: pagjobs.com

Medical Guardian

What: Medical alert service

Headquarters: Philadelphia

Jobs in region: 50

CarSense

What: Auto dealership

Headquarters: Chester Springs

Jobs in region: 50-60

Contemporary Staff Solutions

What: Professional staffing

Headquarters: Mount Laurel

Jobs in region: 20

Linode

What: Cloud hosting

Headquarters: Philadelphia

Jobs in region: 75-80