This content was originally published as part of the Chamber’s Mobilizing Greater Philadelphia’s Middle Market report.

Middle market (MM) companies — those with revenues between $10 million and $1 billion — are a critical growth and employment engine for the economy of the Greater Philadelphia Region (GPR).

Across industries and regional communities in the middle market, hiring qualified workers is cited as the top challenge of executives. The urgency of this need varies across organization sizes and industry focus. These needs are most acute for smaller firms that focus on engineering/tech fields and trade skills industries such as manufacturing and construction. For firms looking to fill positions in the next year, nearly 50% of open positions fell within engineering/research or operations, reflecting a real need for incoming workers with these skillsets.

The GPR has well-established assets for attracting talent. While the Philadelphia MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) lags its peer group in terms of portion of degrees granted in STEM, Philadelphia County has the second largest college student population among its peer cities.

Middle market companies in search of qualified STEM graduates face two headwinds for talent: larger employers and nearby MSAs. Larger organizations are able to staff a dedicated recruitment department to access local universities and can rely on brand awareness to develop interest from potential employees at an early stage. Moreover, their size enables them to put together more compelling compensation packages than middle market companies are able to match. Middle market companies with smaller human resources departments have limited resources to reach out to students at local schools and universities.

Nationwide, organizations focusing on trade skills face an aging workforce and a limited pipeline of new recruits. The decline in domestic manufacturing opportunities has pushed students to pursue opportunities in growing industries, many of which require college degrees. A survey of career and technical education (CTE) credits from 1990 to 2009 found a 9.5% decline in students participating in preparatory training for manufacturing. In tandem with declining interest in manufacturing education, increasing technical sophistication of manufacturing processes requires skillsets beyond what a typical high school student possesses, requiring less skilled workers to receive additional training beyond high school to be workforce-ready. By facilitating opportunities for middle market businesses to better understand and meet their talent demands, organizations in Greater Philadelphia can support the overall regional employment rate, talent retention and continued growth for the middle market.

•  Work with partners across Greater Philadelphia to strengthen marketing and promotion of the region to millennials as a place to stay and grow your career.
•  Develop a coalition of middle market companies with similar talent needs to consolidate their hiring demand and compete with the recruiting efforts of larger corporations.
•  Expand exposure to high demand front-line career opportunities with an emphasis on necessary skills and points of entry.

Remember Dawn Zier from Know the CEO? Find out what she has to say about the Middle Market, young professionals and professional development: