Northwest Arkansas employers plan to hire more people during the next three years, according to an annual survey released Thursday.
About 500 employers took part in the 2015 Northwest Arkansas Regional Employer Retention and Expansion Survey, and those employers expect to hire a collective 3,161 people in the next three years.
This is an uptick from the previous three annual reports, which showed expected worker hires ranging between 965 and 2,037 during the following three years, according to a press release from the Northwest Arkansas Council, which collaborated on the survey with five local chambers of commerce.
“We can see the companies are positive about Northwest Arkansas and believe they’ll be able to create more jobs here, but many of the employers also acknowledge that they face some big challenges to reaching their hiring goals,” Mike Harvey, chief operating officer of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said in the release. “One of those challenges is our workforce. Just like it is in so many regions, Northwest Arkansas companies need more people with higher skills, and our region needs to take some major steps forward to help workers gain those skills.”
The Northwest Arkansas Council and the chambers of commerce are actively engaged with companies and educators about doing more to train workers. There’s a willingness from secondary and post-secondary educators to do more to meet the workforce needs of local companies, Harvey said, according to the press release.
For the annual survey, outreach specialists from chambers of commerce in Bentonville/Bella Vista, Fayetteville, Rogers-Lowell, Siloam Springs and Springdale conduct confidential, face-to-face interviews with employers in their communities. The employers taking part in the survey change from year to year, and the Northwest Arkansas Council coordinates the survey that’s occurred annually since 2012, and it compiles the overall findings, according to the press release.
Other key findings of the 2015 survey include:
- Employers expect to spend $336 million on expansions in the next three years.
- Employers remain uncertain about the world and U.S. economies, but they felt positive about their prospects in Northwest Arkansas.
- Three-fourths of 175 Northwest Arkansas employers that manufacture goods, distribute goods or maintain headquarters operations (PRIME employers) reported sales growth last year. Sales growth was reported by 21 percent of PRIME employers in 2012.
- Skilled labor was identified as a top barrier by 52 percent of PRIME employers. In 2012, 10 percent of companies picked skilled labor as a top barrier.
- Among PRIME employers, 40 identified an inadequate supply of skilled workers as the No. 1 community weakness.
- Major concerns cited by small businesses included the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank Act, immigration, National Labor Relations Board overtime rules and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.