Saturday, July 21, 2012

Skills Shortage?

"Everybody's heard the complaints about recruiting lately.
"Even with unemployment hovering around 9%, companies are grousing that they can't find skilled workers, and filling a job can take months of hunting.
"Employers are quick to lay blame. Schools aren't giving kids the right kind of training.
"The government isn't letting in enough high-skill immigrants. The list goes on and on."
Attentive Australian readers, while recognizing the situation described in the quote above, may find the unemployment figure is mistaken.

Indeed, in Australia, the unemployment rate (trend) remained unchanged last June (at 5.1%).

But that's no mistake. The quote refers to the US and appeared in The Wall Street Journal (October 24, 2011). Its author is Peter Cappelli, professor at the Wharton School of Management, of the University of Pennsylvania.

Cappelli's argument is simple enough:
"With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time.
"In other words, to get a job, you have to have that job already. It's a Catch-22 situation for workers-and it's hurting companies and the economy."
Although unemployment in Australia is considerably lower than in the US, the "Catch-22 situation" remark rang a bell (see here). I would be surprised if regular readers and Aussie jobseekers did not relate.

So, I did some digging up. In the next few posts, to appear as time permits, I'll be reporting on what I've found, from both an empirical and theoretical perspectives.

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But Capelli's quote, which opened this text, wouldn't be complete if I didn't add his own punch line:
"But I believe that the real culprits are the employers themselves.
(...)
"The perceptions about a lack of skilled workers are pervasive.
"But the problem is an illusion."
Additional resource:
June 19, 2012 Capelli interview at IEEE Spectrum's Techwise Conversations (hosted by Steven Cherry):
"An expert blames employers for unrealistically high expectations and unrealistically low wages".

Update:
23-07-2012. Here's The Washington Post's Robert J. Samuelson (20-06-2011) also advancing the thesis of "high expectations", in terms surprisingly similar to Capelli, but without allowing himself the logical conclusion that either higher wages should be offered or the high expectations should be lowered, perhaps by hiring staff and training them:
" 'Employers are looking for people with proven skills in the right fields,' says the McKinsey study. (...)
"So it’s a Catch-22: You can’t get hired unless you have experience; but you can’t get experience unless you’re hired.
(...) There is no instant cure for today’s job mismatch, but it might ease if America’s largest companies were a little bolder." (See here, my emphasis)

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