Layoffs highlight differences in today’s job market

ST. PAUL (AP) — When EduServ Technologies said last July it would close its downtown St. Paul office this January, taking 409 jobs from a city struggling to resurrect itself, the news looked grim.
The cloud grew darker when Stroh Brewery Co. said it would shut its St. Paul plant, leaving 365 people without jobs.
But the two company closings couldn’t be less alike, standing as vivid representations of who moves ahead in a fast-moving economy and who gets left behind.
Stroh employees said a tearful goodbye to union pay and benefits that few could hope to replicate.
By contrast, more than 200 EduServ employees were wooed recently at a company-sponsored job fair attended by Norwest, Green Tree Financial and two dozen other employers hungry for these workers’ computer and professional office skills.
The difference? EduServ employees meet the needs of the current job market as unemployment hovers at historically low levels.
More than 70 Twin Cities businesses contacted EduServ, a student-loan servicing organization, within three days of the closing announcement.
“I’d like to have three Dobermans at the front door keeping prospective employers away until I’m sure I’m done with everyone,” said Deb Tomczyk, EduServ’s senior vice president of human resources. “We believe that if anyone is not working by the time we go out the door in May, it’s because they prefer not to.”
EduServ employees aren’t highly educated managers. Many earn less than $25,000 a year. But they possess customer service experience, an ability to work in teams and technical skills. “It’s difficult to find people with those skills and a good work ethic,” said Laura Fairbanks, a recruiter with Arcadia Financial, one of the 30 suitors at the job fair.
First Bank technical recruiter Nick Reynolds, with more than 100 openings in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, made his pitch at the job fair. He was showcasing annual starting salaries of $40,000 and benefits that range from employee stock options to free cab rides.
“If I can get one person today,” he said, “it will be worth it.”
Although 133 people at EduServ already have accepted jobs with a former competitor, another 44 have turned those jobs down. “The Twin Cities job market is too good,” says Ian Dolby, a lead supervisor at EduServ. “There’s no reason to take the first offer that comes along.”
EduServ is within jogging distance of the old Stroh brewery. But the two work forces are miles apart in education and marketable skills. Forty-three percent of EduServ employees have a college or vocational degree.
More than half earn $8 to $12 an hour, compared with $16 to $18 an hour for the majority of Stroh workers.
But few of the unionized Stroh employees felt they could land a job in the same field and with equivalent compensation.