Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported the addition of 120,000 new jobs in November, enough to scale back the unemployment rate from 9 percent to 8.6 percent. While most economists greeted the report with optimism, it highlighted a few stubborn hurdles for the economy, the crux of which is a nationwide skills gap.
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed there are currently about 13 million unemployed Americans. While such a figure is daunting, given economic realities, it states the more than 3.3 million jobs that are currently unfilled. Coupled, these two figures underline the real economic culprit: an unqualified workforce.
This situation has sparked a debate among business leaders. While employers argue that educational initiatives are needed to increase the availability of highly skilled laborers, other analysts claim organizations merely need to develop employees themselves. Instead of relying on outsourcing or long-term trends in education, they argue, employers need to train workers in-house and develop their own skills.
Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that companies cannot keep blaming the skills gap on the education system. They need to scrap the quixotic search for perfect candidates and instead look for people who, with a bit of training, can do the job.
The reality is that the economy is shifting, a process that is forcing changes in the labor market. Demand for high-tech skills reflects the complex network systems and technological needs of today’s businesses. Owners may complain that human resources software and training programs are too expensive or ineffectual. But operating with unfilled positions only leads to lower revenue and slower growth.
Thankfully, the same technology trends that have spearheaded a shift in labor demands have also provided employers with comprehensive training strategies, online learning programs and human resources management software. These innovations can augment an employee development program and, eventually, address talent shortages.
Unfortunately, though, workplace training is still not where it needs to be to address the country’s employment dilemma. Most experts agree that such a trend will only take off in collusion with educational initiatives, meaning wider access to college funding, vocational training and high school-level programs designed to improve a graduate’s candidacy in the 21st century workforce.
Is your company waiting for the perfect candidate or training new hires, why?