Employer Needs Assessment Survey:


Dr. Gina D. Walls

Parkland College
Champaign, Illinois

2007, 2001, 1995 by the Center For Social Research, Parkland College


The Employer Survey is the second phase of the educational needs assessment of District 505 which is being conducted by the Center for Social Research at Parkland College. The first phase, completed in October, 1994, was a demographic analysis of the District. The Employer Survey project began in January, 1995 and is completed with submission of this report in November of 1995. The study was made possible by the work of Parkland students enrolled in SOC 289-050 over the summer of 1995, and an efficient and talented research assistant, Chevon Kothari. Our report is organized into four parts: (1) Overview (2) Methodology, (3) Findings and (4) Conclusions.

Time line

During spring semester 1995, Parkland formed an advisory group which met with representatives from various college departments to solicit input on study design, sample selection, data requirements, and questionnaire development. We developed a study design which built out of and improved on the 1988 study conducted by the Survey Research Lab at the University of Illinois. A questionnaire was constructed and mailed out to a sample of 448 employers in May. In June and July, with the assistance of students in SOC 289, we collected the questionnaires, conducted telephone follow-up to non- respondents, entered data into computer files, and began to conduct analysis. We also compiled a list of forty employers who had indicated that they would like to be contacted by a Parkland representative. In July we submitted the employer name, contact person, number of full-time employees, address, phone number and all indicated educational and training needs to the Business and Industry Training Center. In the fall semester of 1995, we finished the data analysis and prepared this report. (Appendix A contains information on SOC 289-050.)



The primary purpose of the Employer Survey was to collect information about the education and training needs of District 505 employers. Beyond that, we were interested in discovering how Parkland might best communicate with employers and assessing how employers perceive Parkland. The advisory committee identified the following specific information needs:

Questionnaire Construction

A questionnaire was designed with the above information needs in mind. After revisions, a draft was approved by the committee for pretest by 15 employers. With feedback from the pretest, minor adjustments were made to the final version of the questionnaire. (A copy of the questionnaire is in Appendix B.)


The population for the Employer Survey comprised all employers in community college District 505. After much discussion and checking out several possible sources of employer names and addresses, it was determined that the most accurate and cost effective listing might be obtained from a company which specialized in providing such lists. We chose a reputable and inexpensive company, American Business Lists, and had them compile a complete list of employers in all zip codes in District 505. American Business Lists supplied mailing labels and printed and electronic lists which included a contact person name (manager or owner), address, phone number, Standard Industrial Classification (S.I.C.) code, number of employees, sales volume and fax number. After our use, these lists were turned over to Parkland's Business Training Center.

Since cost prohibited a mailing to all employers, we chose to stratify our sample by employer size for two reasons. This approach would give information on responses by employer size and we could replicate some aspects of the 1988 study for purposes of comparison. Table 1 indicates the levels, by employer size, of the sample and how many employers responded at each level.

Table 1: Parkland Employer Survey - Population and Sample.

Parkland Employer Survey:
Population and Sample
Employer Size 500+ 100-499 20-99 5-19 Totals
Estimated Population Size 14 108 856 2,501 3,479
Original Pool of Employers 14 108 350a 50b 509
Ineligible Employersc 0 19 40 13 59
Eligible Sample 14 89 310 37 448
Completed Surveys >6 47 111 13 177
Response Rate 44% 53% 36% 31% 40%
a Systematic selection.
b Random selection
c Ineligible employers includes those businesses which were repeated in original pool or out of business.

Data Collection and Analysis

Questionnaires were sent by mail to the sample of 448 employers during the third week of May, 1995. The questionnaire was sent with a personalized cover letter addressed to the contact person from Dr. Zelema Harris, president of Parkland College. Included in the mailing was a postage paid business reply envelope and the current college search piece brochure. If the employer did not respond within two to three weeks, we telephoned the employer and sent out a second questionnaire with another cover letter (from the faculty member directing the research) to all those who did not refuse a response by phone. This included those who said they would or might respond and those who we could not reach by telephone.

Completed questionnaires were mailed to the Center for Social Research at Parkland. A total of 177 were received (out of 448 mailed), for a 40% return rate. Under close faculty supervision, students in SOC 289-050 examined the questionnaires, made decisions about coding and data entry and set up procedures for handling open ended questions. Students entered the quantitative data into SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences software) data files and typed the verbatim responses to open ended questions into WordPerfect document files. Student data entry was checked for accuracy and completeness by the faculty director and her research assistant.

SPSS was used to run frequency distributions for all questions. The data was analyzed for the total sample and for each of the four employer size levels. Graphs were made using Quattro Pro software. Qualitative data was content analyzed for recurring themes both across the total sample and within each of the four levels.


General Limitations

Return Rate: While a 40 percent return rate is quite respectable for a mailed survey - we did not hear from the total sample. Respondents are likely to be different from non- respondents in some ways which may be important to our findings. For example, a high percentage (67%) of respondents indicated that they had had employees trained or educated at Parkland. Did this predispose them to respond to our survey? Would this percentage be lower for non-respondents?

Sample: 1) Even though we tried to achieve the most comprehensive, up to date, and accurate list of District 505 employers possible, the absolute veracity of the sample remains unknown. The business world changes rapidly, we do know that some owner/manager names were out of date, some businesses were no longer in operation, and some employers appeared in more than one level, especially when a large company had branch divisions. 2) Although the number of employers in the four levels are not the same, we did not weight the data in the analysis. Most of the graphs will reflect the responses of the total sample rather than responses by employer size. When there have been interesting or illuminating variations in response by employer size, we have noted that as such.

Respondents: We did note that the response rate was higher for employers in the 100-499 level. We thought that this might be due to the fact that these companies may be the ones most likely to have a fully staffed human resources office and a person who would have perceived responding to such surveys as part of their position responsibilities. In most cases, we did not know who responded to our questionnaire. We simply accepted the information given.


This section contains brief observations, graphs and tables. Throughout this section we have noted comparisons with the 1988 study as appropriate.

Employer Characteristics:

Graph 1 (page 13) describes the 177 employers who responded to the survey by the number of employees. Note that over 60% of the respondents employ between 20 - 99 employees. The respective percentages are very similar to the percentages from the 175 respondents in the 1988 study. In 1988, 62% of the respondents employed 25 - 99, 22% employed 100 - 499, and 6% employed 500 or more employees.

Type of Business

Employers were classified according to their Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes. Data was collapsed into meaningful classifications and is presented in Table 2 below. Health Services, at 14, had the highest frequency, followed by Eating & Drinking Places and Wholesale Durable Goods with 13 each, followed by Educational Services at 11 and Social Services at 9.

Table 2: Parkland Employer Survey - Type of Business (SIC Codes)

Classifications (Via SIC Codes) Number Percent
Health Services 14 7.9
Eating and Drinking Places 13 7.3
Wholesale Trade-Durable Goods 13 7.3
Educational Services 11 6.2
Social Services 9 5.1
Depository & Credit Institutions, Investment Offices 7 4.0
Heavy Construction, Construction, Special Trades 7 4.0
Public Finance/Government Human Resource Programs 7 4.0
Metals, Machinery, Electrical, & Transportation Manufacturers 7 4.0
Miscellaneous Retail 7 4.0
Building Material and Hardware 6 3.4
Business Services 6 3.4
Executive Legislative, Government/Justice & Public Order 6 3.4
General Merchandising and Food Stores 6 3.4
Wholesale Trade - Nondurable Goods 6 3.4
Insurance and Real Estate 5 2.8
Amusement and Recreational Services 4 2.3
Apparel and Accessory Stores 4 2.3
Motor Freight Transport/Warehouse 4 2.3
Auto Dealers and Service Stations 3 1.7
Home Furniture and Furnishing Stores 3 1.7
Communications 2 1.1
Electric, Gas and Sanitary Services 2 1.1
Engineering & Accounting & Management Services 2 1.1
Food and Kindred Products Manufacturers 2 1.1
Hotels, Motels 2 1.1
Museums and Membership Organization 2 1.1
Printing, Publishing and Allied Industries 2 1.1
Railroads and Taxicabs 2 1.1
Chemicals and Allied Products Manufacturers 1 .05
Unknown or Unclassifiable 11 6.2
TOTALS 177 99%

*Total percent does not add to 100 due to rounding.

Employment Level and Projected Growth

Graph 2 (page 14) illustrates the current employment level compared to one year ago and three years ago. Note that over 55% of the respondents indicate that their employment level is about the same as one year ago, and about 32% indicate that their employment level is about the same as three years ago. Overall, respondents report more growth than decline. These findings are similar to those reported in the 1988 study, see Table 3 for comparisons.

Graph 3 (page 15) depicts the employers expected growth within the next five years by number of additional employees to be hired. Note that less than a fourth of the employers do not expect to expand. This is quite different from the 1988 study where 42% of respondents did not plan to hire any additional employees.

Employers were asked to list positions and skills which they would look for if they were expanding their workforce. The positions listed are consistent with areas considered to be growth occupations in general. The positions most frequently listed represented the occupational areas of health care, computer programming and operation, and social service. There also appeared to be a need for skilled and semi-skilled occupations, specifically, electrical workers or electrician. Other occupational areas frequently represented included clerical and sales areas and food service. (Appendix C provides a complete list of all responses to the open-ended questions. It is a rich source of specific information.)

The skills which were most frequently mentioned include computer skills, office/clerical skills, interpersonal/communication skills, "people" skills, and industrial/mechanical skills. (See Appendix C for complete information.)

Many employers also listed skills and occupational areas which they had trouble recruiting. Once again, the areas of health care, social services, industrial/mechanical, computers, clerical appear. "People" skills and work ethic are also a recurring theme in this section as well. (See Appendix C for complete information.)

Table 3 indicates changes in employment level and projected growth for district employers and compares that across employer size and to similar data from the 1988 study. While the categories were a bit different for the 1988 study, note the similarities between totals for employment levels for 1988 and 1995.

Table 3: Parkland Employer Survey: Employment Level and Growth

Parkland College Employer Survey: Employment Level and Growth
by Employer Size
Employment Level: Compared to 1 Year Ago
Plus more than 15% 0% 14.9% 7.2% 0% 8.5% 8%
Plus 5-15% 33.3% 17.0% 20.7% 23.1% 20.3% 24%
About the same 66.7% 48.9% 56.8% 61.5% 55.4% 62%
Minus 5-15% 0% 14.9% 8.1% 7.7% 9.6% 6%
Minus more than 15% 0% 2.1% 6.3% 0% 4.5% 0%
No Response/Don't Know 0% 2.1% .9% 7.7% 1.7% NA
Employment Level: Compared to 3 Years Ago
Plus more than 15% 16.7% 23.4% 19.8% 7.7% 19.8% 22%
Plus 5-15% 33.3% 27.7% 28.8% 30.8% 28.8% 37%
About the same 33.3% 27.7% 33.3% 46.2% 32.8% 27%
Minus 5-15% 16.7% 14.9% 10.8% 7.7% 11.9% 10%
Minus more than 15% 0% 6.4% 6.3% 0% 5.6% 4%
No Response/Don't Know 0% 0% 0.9% 7.7% 1.1% NA
Expected 5 Year Expansion
21 + employees 0% 25.5% 5.4% 0% 10.2% YES:

11-20 employees 0% 12.8% 4.5% 7.7% 6.8%
6-10 employees 16.7% 10.6% 14.4% 15.4% 13.6%
1-5 employees 0% 19.1% 33.3% 43.2% 28.8%
No employees 33.3% 21.3% 24.3% 23.1% 23.7%
No Response/Don't Know 50% 10.6% 17.1% 7.7% 15.8%

Occupational Categories of Employees

Graph 4 (page 16) indicates how employers classified their employees using the Census classifications. The bars of the graph represent the mean percentage for each occupational category. The percentages of professional/technical, clerical/sales and managerial/administrative are fairly consistent with last year's demographic analysis of the district.

Table 4 shows how occupational classifications varied across employer size.

Table 4: Parkland Employer Survey - Occupational Classifications

Parkland College Employer Survey:
Occupational Classifications
Employer Size 500+ 100-499 20-99 5-19
Full Time (Median) 757 114 20 6
Part Time (Median) 106 30 8 2
Occupational Categories
of Employees(Mean %)
Professional/Technical 9% 16% 25% 25%
Managerial/Administrative 13% 13% 10% 17%
Clerical/Sales 22% 13% 20% 22%
Skilled/Crafts 2% 9% 10% 11%
Semi-skilled/Operatives 10% 17% 6% 3%
Unskilled/Laborers 11% 15% 13% 2%
Unsure 33% 7% 7% 10%
Other 0 11% 8% 10%

Hiring Practices

Graph 5 (page 17) shows the methods that employers use to locate potential employees. Employers could indicate more than one method. Note that local newspapers are used by over 80% of the employers and that personal recommendations are used by nearly 60% of employers. Note also that nearly 30% of employers use Parkland College Placement.

While the 1988 study analyzed the methods of locating employees by each occupational category, in general, when all occupational categories are looked at as a whole, local newspapers were still the most frequently preferred method, followed by job services or employment agencies. In 1988, Parkland College Placement also made a strong showing.

Employers' Experience with and Perception of Employees Educated or Trained at Parkland

Graph 6 (page 18) demonstrates that 62.7% of the employers have had employees who received education or training at Parkland prior to their employment with the respondent.

Graph 7 (page 19) demonstrates that 67.2% of the employers have had employees who have received education or training at Parkland during their employment with the respondent. The 1988 survey reported that over 75% of employers had employees who had received Parkland education or training either before or since their employment.

Graph 8 (page 20) delineates employer ratings of how well Parkland has prepared employees for technical skills, non-technical skills (such as interpersonal skills and work habits), job entry and job advancement. Over 92% of the respondents indicated that Parkland did an excellent or good job of preparing employees for technical skills. Approximately 71% reported that Parkland did an excellent or good job of preparing employees for non-technical skills. Over 90% reported that Parkland did an excellent or good job at preparing employees for job entry while over 77% indicated that Parkland did an excellent or good job at preparing employees for job advancement. Although it is important to note that a large proportion of employers indicated that they did not have a basis for evaluation (n's for each are on the graph), the responses still represent validation of the job that Parkland is doing preparing employees for District employers. In general, these responses are similar to those reported by the 1988 study.

Employers were asked how Parkland could better serve the needs of employers. This question elicited wide ranging responses which are challenging to summarize. (Appendix C contains the complete information.) In general, 1) respondents seem to call for Parkland to teach "employability" skills such as the application process and interviewing, "people" skills and "work ethic. " 2) Respondents seem to express a desire for more connections and interactions with Parkland. 3) Respondents seem to communicate a need for more in-house training and more on-site mini-courses and seminars.

Employers were also given the opportunity to write any other comments they might want to express. These responses were many and varied. They were also positive and supportive of Parkland and its efforts. For example, one respondent wrote, "Thanks for reaching out and, as always, continuing to reposition Parkland to remain a premier community college." Another wrote, "Parkland is by far one of the most advanced and community-oriented colleges in Illinois! Good job!" (See Appendix C.)

Employer Needs for Training and Education

Graph 9 (page 21) indicates that employers prefer to train their employees in-house.

Graph 10 (page 22) shows that employee training is widespread and that employers are using a variety of training sources to include universities, contracted services, various sources for professional development and vocational/technical schools other than Parkland.

Graph 11 (page 23) portrays the six areas employers most frequently indicated their training and educational needs. About 80% of the employers responded to this question (n's are on graph). Not surprisingly, communication training is the most highly needed area, with more than 80% of the respondents indicating a need. Almost 80% reported a need for management/supervisory training, and nearly 80% a need for leadership/team building. Over 75% indicated a need for computer literacy training and nearly 75% a need for computer software training. Approximately 65% reported a need for diversity/conflict management training. Note that Graph 11 also provides information on the numbers of employees who might need training.

Graph 12 (page 24) pictures the next six highest need areas. These six moderate need areas are, in order from highest to lowest: customer service, office practices/operations, human resource management, technical/business writing, Total Quality Management, and safety/first aid.

Graph 13 (page 25) shows that nearly 68% of the respondents have some type of tuition payment policy. This finding demonstrates the employers' commitment to education and training.


The information yielded by the Employer Survey should prove useful for Parkland decision makers. In particular:

1) Parkland may want to consider trying to bolster education and training in those difficult areas represented by non-technical skills: interpersonal skills and work habits. Employers are communicating a need for employees who can communicate well with others and have a solid work ethic.

2) Parkland may want to consider strengthening its connections to employers and all of its community with even more direct contact. Respondents note that Parkland should keep in contact with the community and employers via surveys, information, advertising and personal contact.

3) The survey results demonstrate strong business and community support for Parkland. The comments affirm the work that Parkland has done in the past with employers and point to positive and productive future relationships with employers in District 505.