Young Professionals at a Premium in Rural Areas

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Sep. 24, 2012 12:00 am  

"We can't find employees who can accept wages in the southeast Arkansas economy," was the blunt comment of Howard Beaty Jr., CEO of First State Bank in Crossett.

When Beaty joined First State Bank in 2003, he said it employed around 25.

Beaty moved from northern Louisiana, where he was a "known commodity."

"That was an opportunity for me to move out of my community where I was a known talent and step out on my own, take on more responsibility," he said.

Since then, the bank is down to 14 employees. Many retired or left for higher-paying jobs at the local Georgia-Pacific plant, Beaty said. Because of the difficulty of hiring new workers, and because of a changing banking industry, the remaining employees have been cross-trained in various areas.

"We're doing more with less," he said. "With new demands, compliance, regulations, decreases in income, the attack from the popular media on banking and fees we pass on to consumers - we're having to do more with less on the talent side."

Change in Tactics

Rural banks are just looking in the wrong places, Beaty said. Sifting through college graduates in the standard job market just won't cut it in the future. Banks won't be able to find enough talent to fill every slot.

"I think this is across the board," he said. "We as employers expect someone to walk in on Day One and have the skill set to hit the ground running and perform their job duties with little training. That's something we're going to have to change."

First, banks need to look at their own workforce, Beaty said.

"I think most bankers would be surprised in what their existing employees can do," he said. "Maybe it's an industry belief that current employees, even though they have exceptional skills, can't step up to the plate. I've found that to be completely the opposite. They already know the organizational structure, so they won't hit the roadblocks that new employees would."

Second, banks will increasingly need to work with local schools, Beaty said, and in his and other rural areas, that often means two-year and vocational colleges.



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