“With the unemployment rate so low, companies everywhere are in competition for not only hiring top talent, but retaining it.” This is according to Bill Stoller, the CEO of Express Employment Professionals, a leading staffing company firm in the U.S., Canada, and South Africa.
To Stoller’s point, a low unemployment rate doesn’t necessarily make the job market easy to navigate. That’s why it’s important for both employers and job seekers alike to know where to look. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the fastest growing occupations from 2016 to 2026. Nearly all of the top 10 were STEM-related, including mathematician, statistician, software developers, and nurse practitioners, with the top two jobs pertaining to the growing industries of wind and solar energy.
Heading into 2019, experts predict a good year for business, which means a healthy job market. But, still, it is important for employers and potential employees to position themselves according to where the need is. Here, Bill Stoller explains the top job opportunities for 2019 and how people can best prepare themselves for the future.
Innovation & Tech Today: I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the origins of Express Employment Professionals.
Bill Stoller: Well, the true origins come from another company that was based in the Northwest called
ACME Personnel Service. Unfortunately, that company ran into financial troubles and myself and two others discussed starting another company and so we did in 1983. We called it Express and divided business duties amongst ourselves and had our payroll center located in Boulder, CO.
We ultimately decided to centralize everything and locate our headquarters in Oklahoma City. Since it is in the central United States it’s easy to get to, and from Oklahoma City you can get on direct flights to most major markets in the country. To grow the company, we began awarding franchises in 1985 and that was basically the beginning.
Jim Gray, Bob Funk, and myself were co-founders, and then in the late 80s we consolidated when Jim decided he would retire from this company and focus on his own local business. We became two partners in 1991 and have been ever since.
Express is still privately held and we plan on staying that way.
I&T Today: Express Employment Professionals obviously isn’t the only staffing company out there. What makes your company unique in the staffing industry?
BS: There are several things that make us unique. First is that we are 100 percent franchised so we have local owners in markets all across North America. They’re part of their community and they work and interact with people in the area. The other thing is we have a unique culture that has been adopted by all of our franchises and all of our corporate people, and that culture comprises the basic values of life – treating people how you’d want to be treated, doing the right thing, and so forth. We all believe that, and we’re all in.
The other thing is we all have a true passion for this culture of helping people. We’re out to help good people find good jobs, and help good companies find good people. That’s our focus and it helps us feel good. The more times you feel good about the work you’re doing, the better your work and business will do.
Finally, what really sets Express apart is that we offer a personal touch to the employment process. We obviously use technology to our advantage, but we still maintain a personal touch with not only the company needing an employee, but also the person needing a job. It’s that key relationship we build that is extremely important. We try to do things directly and communicate by phone. Certainly, we do texting and all of that, but nothing replaces the traditional conversation that you should have during the job hunt. Just focusing on the human element is truly key to what I would call our success.
I&T Today: In 2018 you employed 566,000 people across over 800 franchised locations. Looking towards 2019, how do you hope those numbers will increase and are you utilizing any new strategies in the coming year to help keep moving forward and increase your numbers?
BS: In terms of sales growth, 2018 was a strong year for Express. At the same time, we also saw a 5-plus percent increase in the number of people that we employed. Given the low unemployment rate and the fact that it’s currently a job seeker’s market, we’ll continue to see gains as we employ more people each year.
For 2019, we are bullish on the year and I think, for the most part, most business owners agree with that outlook. At Express we increased our franchise count in 2018 to over 800 locations, which was sizable, and we’re looking to grow that again in 2019. We’re projected to grow by another 30 to 40 franchise locations and see roughly an 8 percent sales growth.
Part of what really spurs our growth is the offices that opened within the last one to two years are going to start expanding. This will organically grow the company as those offices continue to put more people to work.
Looking at the whole of the economy, businesses have to take projections one year at a time. We are currently in the longest expansion in the history of business, so we’ll need to see what develops not only in 2019, but leading into 2020 as well. I’ve heard opinions that 2020 is forecasted to be a good year, but you and I both know that there are going to be hiccups that we can’t anticipate and have no control over.
I&T Today: As you’ve been looking ahead, what are some of the top growing fields right now? Why are those fields specifically experiencing so much growth?
BS: Currently, blue collar jobs outnumber white collar jobs in terms of availability. It’s the first time in our country’s history that has occurred. At least the first time in modern history because most everything was blue collar before the 1900s until probably about the 1950s.
The top growing fields are in what I call the Express sweet spot, which include the general and skilled labor, administrative, and office categories. These fields are in the highest demand, and when you look at these industries, you’re looking at a lot of expansion. A good example is to think of the overall growth of cities. You’re located in Denver and while I haven’t been there recently, I’m sure there are cranes all over the place to match up with the demand of growth.
As a direct result of all that activity, construction has done well. Manufacturing, too. I just read today that somewhere between 2-and-a-half to 3 million jobs are within manufacturing right now. That’s a huge demand for those types of jobs.
Then you have transportation and warehousing. Across the country we’re seeing one large company building distribution centers close to almost every major airport, which will in turn create more jobs in logistics, warehousing, and subsequently the transportation field to fulfill and deliver orders.
Certainly, there are countless technical jobs we see at Express that are in demand. In Oklahoma we have well-structured career tech schools and they prepare a lot of people for careers in the mechanical field and IT jobs. I recently interviewed somebody who was actually in the mortgage banking business for 20-25 years and he decided, “Now, I’m going to get into IT.” He’s not into programming or anything like that, but he’s skilled in an entry level of the technology. There’s a lot of growth expected in that sector for those willing to get the proper education.
I&T Today: Could you talk a bit more about the state of STEM jobs and what that market might look like going into 2019?
BS: I was speaking with a college the other day and they said some of their fastest growing areas of study include physics, chemistry, and even biology. That is amazing, especially considering this college has historically been exercise science and business heavy in terms of fields with the leading student count. The growing demand in these fields, which should also include mathematics, shows that science and developing technology will continue as an integral part of our lives, and it takes scientific minds to help carry us into the future of where we’re going. Automation and robotics will not replace the human worker, but will create opportunities for growth in development, servicing, and operating these machines.
Technology-based fields are where a lot of jobs are for skilled workers. And, without a doubt, I think it’s a great space to be in.
I&T Today: What advice would you give to someone in their first year of college who is deciding what field they want to start pursuing?
BS: Ever since my 29-year-old twins have been five years old, I always said if you don’t major in business, minor in business, because everything is business from your personal life to companies that you work for.
Then I said, if you don’t major in business or if you want to minor in something else, do it in a specialty field.
Regardless of the field though, business truly is a part of every facet of life. For example, engineers have the kind of mental framework that allows them to work through problems and find solutions for whatever issue may arise on a technical front. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Much of engineering is sales related, and that’s when having a business background comes in as a big help, allowing the individual to leverage their value to current and potential employers.
At the same time, I think people need to stop and pause to look at what the jobs in the future will be.
Granted that a lot of new jobs occur every year and things will change over the next three to five years, there is certainly momentum that you can look at, right now, to forecast the future. A great way to do that is by getting an internship and talking with people who are presently working in a field and asking direct questions. If they had to do it over, what would they have done?
Again, it is really helpful to talk to somebody with experience, and that’s why I think internships and apprenticeships are very important at a young age to find out what you want to do and what you don’t want to do.
Overall, college isn’t for everybody. I’m a big advocate of the career tech education system. Many career tech programs train people to immediately enter well-paying jobs, proving that it’s really helpful to have a license or some sort of a certification in today’s marketplace. Certifications and licenses matter. For example, whether you’re a machinist or a diesel or gasoline engine mechanic, you’ll always have a job. While those jobs aren’t going anywhere, coupling that certification or license with an understanding of the electrical side of engines will open the door to increased professional opportunities as more electrical engines come out in the future. The opportunities are endless and that’s great for the American worker.
I mentioned it earlier, but it’s worth repeating: you can get a very nice livable wage by earning a certification or license through a local career tech.
Finally, Express held a focus group in New York City earlier this year speaking with a panel of unemployed people, and we had a chance to hear their experiences and discuss what they might do differently moving forward. One of the questions asked of the group was, “What do you think you’re going do in the future?” and several panelists said they may go back and earn a career tech-type degree. And that makes sense. Doing so means they’ll always have a skill to fall back on in tougher times.
One thing that will never change is the importance and value of hard skills in the modern and future marketplace. At the end of the day, going back to school and getting an education in some specialty field, labor, or trade position is beneficial to all workers and will carry them through in good times and in bad.