Over the weekend I was catching up on blog reading and this post, Only 20 Percent of Workers Qualify for High Demand Jobs, on the Perfect Labor Storm 2.0 blog caught my attention.
The post describes a dire-sounding situation, especially for the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed - there are lots of available jobs, but a shortage of candidates with the requisite education and skills to fill said jobs. From the referenced post:
Today's long-term jobs crisis is not about the current financial meltdown. It is about an accelerating talent showdown. The basic cause is that unprecedented technological advances are ever more rapidly transforming the world of work. This will continue to raise the U.S. talent ante for people seeking employment or for businesses that need to fill high-skill jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor finds that 62 percent of all U.S. jobs now require two-year or four-year degrees and higher, or special postsecondary occupation certificates or apprenticeships. By 2020 we can expect that these talent requirements will increase to include 75 percent of U.S. jobs.
And in the post we learn that it is not just the formal education requirement that trips up many job seekers, it is a more fundamental and structural issue:
Today's long-term jobs crisis is not about the current financial meltdown. It is about an accelerating talent showdown. The basic cause is that unprecedented technological advances are ever more rapidly transforming the world of work. This will continue to raise the U.S. talent ante for people seeking employment or for businesses that need to fill high-skill jobs.
The general slant of the piece, and most of what you read in similar 'companies can't find the skilled employees they need' articles lately is that the US education system, from private elementary schools to online PhD programs is failing, and has not reacted with sufficient speed and aggressiveness to the changing global and national economic conditions, and that it is sending its graduates out to battle unprepared in a market that requires capability and skills that they simply do not possess.
But there is a part of the equation that consistently bothers me. In articles like this, and in the discussion that ensues, there is hardly ever recognition of the role and responsibility that the employer bears. When a new product is developed and fails to succeed in the market, can organizations get away with blaming the consumers? Do we look fondly back on these 'before their time' offerings as nothing more than quirky bits of nostalgia?
When product development comes up with an idea for a product that simply can't be engineered and manufactured at the needed cost/timeframe/quality that the market demands, does the organization and the people involved not see any consequences from the failed attempt?
But somehow in this 'we can't find the skilled workers we need' debate, the corporation(s) seem to get off scot free. But they are 'selling' something here as well, the opportunity to work, get compensated, and to learn new skills in exchange for an employee's time, attention, and dedication. If they are unable to find an adequate 'market' for this offering, why aren't they held to task (at least partially) as well?
In 'Rework' the co-founders of 37signals advise organizations to forget artificial 'years of experience' minimums, and to drop formal education requirements. In 'Delivering Happiness' Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos.com describes in detail a talent 'pipeline' process that allows Zappos to concentrate their external hiring on entry level positions, and though on the job experience and training continue to develop future management and leadership talent.
These successful organizations do not set artificially high barriers to entry.
So I will ask again - does that job REALLY require a college degree? Or 7-10 years of progressively more responsibility in the specific market and industry?
If there aren't enough buyers for what you are selling, it seems to me that is at least partly if not mostly your problem.