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Tue, Oct. 15

Technical skills are vital for Prescott's best jobs

Metro Newspaper Service

Metro Newspaper Service

PRESCOTT- Looking for a job in Prescott?

For those with technical skills in nursing, engineering or medical coding, the news is good.

On the other hand, job hunters with clerical or administrative skills might want to rethink their career aspirations.

A quick look at the classified advertisements in the Daily Courier or the postings on the Web sites of a number of the area's major employers will tell the story: health-related jobs are hot, but many other popular fields are lagging.

The most obvious indication can be found on the Web site of Yavapai Regional Medical Center, the area's largest employer. The hospital's Web site currently posts nearly 90 job openings.

That compares with just 20 job openings for the area's second-largest employer, Yavapai County.

Mark Timm, employment/employees manager for the hospital, agreed that the demand for many jobs in the health care field is growing, as the large baby boomer generation ages and requires more care.

Even as the need in some of the more specialized fields continues to grow, Timm said the greatest need still is in one of the hospital's key fields: nursing.

"The hardest to fill is registered nurses," Timm said.

The hospital's Web site bears that out. Of the 85 job openings on the site this week, 23 were for registered nurses, including everything from intensive care nurses to labor and delivery nurses.

While Timm acknowledged that the nursing shortage is nothing new, he pointed out that the situation is not improving, and is likely to worsen in the next decade.

Estimates show that within 10 years, the shortage of nurses could number at more than 1 million, Timm said.

To attract and retain nurses, he said "we're trying to make the profession as attractive as possible."

Part of that involves compensation. The market has helped to increase nursing wages in recent years, Timm said. YRMC's starting level for new graduates is $22 per hour, and about $35 per hour at the top level.

In addition to nurses, Timm said a demand also exists for physical, occupational, speech, and respiratory therapists, as well as pharmacists and medical records personnel.

On the other end of the spectrum, Timm said the hospital regularly receives plenty of applications in fields such as clerical, food service and maintenance.

Jolaine Jackson, human resources manager for the City of Prescott, the area's firth-largest employer, reported a similar scenario.

While secretarial jobs can attract "upward of 200 applications," Jackson said, "We tend to have difficulty filling high-level technological positions."

Jackson said engineering jobs sometimes generate as few as two or three applications.

Such skilled fields usually offer the highest paid jobs as well. On the current Web site, for instance, the city lists just five job openings. The highest paid - an engineer - could earn between about $80,000 and $112,000 per year. Another open position - a custodian - could earn from $10.38 to $14.53 per hour.

And in law enforcement, the city is not unlike most other communities in the nation in having difficulty recruiting enough police officers. In fact, she said, the city has police openings virtually all of the time.

The city Web site shows that pay for police officers ranges from a minimum of $19.79 per hour to a maximum of $28.17 per hour.

Other emerging areas at the city include positions in the environmental field, Jackson said, such as jobs in water and wastewater.

At Yavapai County, Director of Human Resources Alan Vigneron tells a similar story. While he said the county gets a steady supply of applications for many of its positions, those that are hardest to fill are highly skilled jobs such as nurses and dentists.

Currently, a community health services dentist is among the positions the county is advertising on its Web site. At $106,720 per year, the position is the highest paid of those on the site.

Teri Drew, regional director for the Northern Arizona Council of Governments, sees a slightly different trend in her dealings with the entire area.

"The most in-demand occupation right now is retail," she said, noting that the addition of new stores such as Kohl's, Lowe's and the RoomStore has added to a shortage. "Currently, the demand is outweighing our supply."

Unlike the other local in-demand jobs, retail workers often start at relatively low wages, with a potential for dramatic raises. Drew said the average retail pay ranges from $10,000 per year to $100,000 per year.

"There is a huge and wide range," Drew said of the retail salaries. An upcoming retail-skills-center program will help employees learn how to move from the lower end of the salary range to the high end, she said.

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