Job Skills Gap– Eternal Struggle of Unprepared Workforce: CEOs Say the ‘Skills Gap’ Threatens U.S. Economic Future…

Skills Gap: What exactly is it? If you ask around you are likely to hear a few different answers, for example; CEOs might say it’s a symptom of an outdated education system that fails to prepare students with the right skills and that threatens the U.S.’s ability to effectively compete in the global economy…

Meanwhile other pundits might say– it’s an effort by companies to shift the burden of training employees onto academia and government instead of investing in it themselves. But the most important answer would come from one of U.S.’s 20 million unemployed young people, who might say; It’s what’s keeping me from getting a job… How do workers stay relevant in increasingly automated world?

According to Paul Wiseman and Bernard Condon; the trend is clear from giant corporations to university libraries to start-up businesses, employers are using rapidly improving technology to do tasks that humans used to do. That means millions of workers are caught in a competition they can’t win– they are wedged between highly skilled technical jobs and machines that keep getting more powerful, cheaper, easier to use…

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To better understand the impact of technology on jobs, the Associated Press (AP) analyzed employment data from 20 countries and interviewed– economists, technology experts, robot manufacturers, software developers, chief executive officers, and workers who are competing with smarter machines… The AP found that almost all the jobs disappearing are the mid-skill, mid-pay jobs– jobs with salaries ranging from $38,000 to $68,000– which form the backbone of the middle class…

In the U.S., half of the 7.5 million jobs lost during the recent recession paid middle-class wages… According to the Manpower Group’s ‘Talent Shortage Survey’; in a worldwide survey 35% of 38,000 employers reported difficulty filling jobs due to lack of available talent… But the idea of a ‘skills gap’ has been widely criticized, for example; Peter Cappelli asks whether these studies are just a sign of ’employer whining’… and Paul Krugman calls the skills gap a ‘zombie idea’ that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die…

The New York Times asserts that it’s mostly corporate fiction, based in part on self-interest, misreading of government data… the survey responses are an effort by executives to get the government to take on more of the costs of training workers…

According to James Bessen; Really? So, it’s a worldwide conspiracy by thousands of business managers to manipulate public opinion seems far-fetched. Perhaps the simpler explanation is the better one: many employers might actually have difficulty hiring skilled workers. The critics cite economic evidence to argue that there are no major shortages of skilled workers.

This issue has become controversial because people define ‘skills gap’ differently… Some public officials have sought to blame persistent unemployment on skill shortages, but according to some experts– there is little evidence to support such an interpretation. Indeed, employers reported difficulty hiring skilled workers before the recession, which illustrates one source of confusion in the debate over the existence of a skills gap…

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However, what is certain is there are two essential skill sets that remain at the top of the list of job requirements for 21st century work, namely: 1. Ability to quickly acquire and apply new knowledge… 2 The know-how to apply essential skills– problem solving, communication, teamwork, technology use, innovation… The skills gap is real and it’s a significant a problem… according to CEOs of major U.S. corporations at an event in Washington DC hosted by Business Roundtable and Change the Equation… The finding is part of a survey of the memberships on U.S. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Skills… According to 126 CEOs who responded, key points that emerged included:

  • 97% reported the skills gap is a problem…
  • 60% of job openings require basic STEM literacy, and 42% require advanced STEM skills…
  • 28% say that at least half of their new entry-level hires lack basic STEM literacy…
  • 62% of CEOs report problems finding qualified applicants for jobs requiring advanced computer/IT knowledge…
  • 41% report problems finding qualified applicants for jobs requiring advanced quantitative knowledge…
  • Over next five years, employers need to hire nearly 1 million employees with basic STEM literacy and more than 600,000 employees with advanced STEM knowledge…

The skills gap is a serious challenge for business and the entire economy… According to John Engler; if business is going to compete and succeed, then this crisis must be confronted; CEOs are speaking out on the issue, and pursuing solutions in their own companies and urging that U.S. must develop a national strategy to prepare workers for STEM jobs…

According to Linda P. Rosen; STEM skills are critical, not only for today’s jobs, but will be essential to tomorrow’s opportunities as well, CEOs know that ensuring a STEM-literate workforce must begin with a strong K-12 pipeline… Policy makers need to think differently about skills and encourage creative solutions, for example; industry certification programs for new skills, partnerships between business and community colleges, apprenticeship programs in skilled trades… Workers must acquire 21st Century skills to earn good pay, and employers must hire skilled workers and train them to stay competitive in the global economy

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In the article It’s Man vs. Machine and Man Is Losing by Kathleen Madigan writes: Since the recession ended, business has increased their real spending on equipment and software by 26%… New orders and shipments of ‘capex goods’– defined as non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, increased… For all the talk of uncertainty, the increase in orders is a sign that companies are optimistic about the future…

Hence, you can’t fault companies for investing in new machinery rather than hiring new workers… Business’ preference for equipment while understandable from a cost perspective– is also a big reason why policymakers are stymied to find ways to ignite good paying job creation… Indeed, the Federal Reserve‘s pursuit of low-interest rates only widens the cost gap… That’s because it cheapens the borrowing costs for capital projects while doing little to hold down payroll expenses…

According to Ben Hutt; the workforce of the future will need to focus on new ways to apply and leverage their skills so they can add greater value... It’s for this reason that according to the Economist; the top layer of the labor market will sit with individuals with high abstract reasoning, creativity, and interpersonal skills that are often beyond most peoples’ capabilities...

So what can you do to better equip the labor market and the next generation of workers? As a starting point, governments and industry need to do a better job of up-skilling and transitioning workers. This does not necessarily need to be by supporting ageing educational and policy frameworks, rather by encouraging, supporting people to be more self-directed and empowered to educate themselves…

Investing in people by providing access to and incentives for completion of self-led education, and by providing incentives for business to sponsor relevant job training programs…

In the article Jobs Skills Gap by Allen Wastler writes: What’s more important for getting a job: Being able to write computer code or understanding what your boss says? Either way, there’s a problem, according to a survey of 500 top executives… 92% of them said there’s a job skills gap. And of that overwhelming majority, nearly half believed the gap was in ‘soft skills’– communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration…

According to Janette Marx; businesses is saying they are getting applicants who aren’t prepared for the workplace… According to Gary Beach; most surveys focus on the ‘current’ situation, but based on the incredibly poor results for U.S., in PISA test results, I worry much more about the ‘future’ skills gap crisisAnd how do you fix that? Well, that’s the second part of the job skills gap debate: How do you teach the right skills and who pays for it? This typically boils down to a government education versus private business training fight…

Indeed, more than half of the respondents to a survey said they didn’t think the U.S. college system was doing a good job of preparing students for the workplace. And the vast majority, 89%, thought corporate training programs and apprenticeships were the better way to go to fill the job skills gap. Of course, many executives believe the cost of developing in-house training programs was a major barrier…

In the article How Corporate America Can Close Skills Gap by Joseph B. Fuller writes: Far too many companies think short-term, poaching talent from each other rather than developing it… The U.S. has indeed failed for years to position aspiring workers to share in economic prosperity. But essential driver of that failure– for which both businesses and policymakers have a measure of responsibility– is not a matter of cash for tuition…

The erosion of the skills base of the U.S. workforce, especially for middle-skills jobs (generally defined as those requiring education or training beyond a high-school diploma but less than a four-year degree), is a major threat to U.S. competitiveness. Employers across sectors and geographies have difficulty finding workers with relevant skills; aspiring workers lack insight into which skills are in demand and access to the resources to develop their talents fully…

Companies provide little visibility as to what they currently require or anticipate requiring from workers in the future, and they invest too little in guiding and supporting the educators on whom they rely for talent… companies needs establish a close working relationship with educators to determine what constitutes relevant skills curriculum… Educators, for their part, should recognize that a paramount measure of success is the ability of their graduates to obtain the skills for gainful employment… Many progressive educators understand that, but they lack the resources to forge enduring partnerships with employers…

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According to Mark Price; the ‘skills gap’ hypothesis is troubling because policymakers can use it as an excuse for government not to take the lead in job creation. After all, if high unemployment is due to significant skills deficits among workers, the solution must be education, training… right? Policymakers must understand their principal role is to clearly understand the challenges of business, workers, and the economy… and to apply resources that support’s constructive job skills programs…

Most important, policymakers must recognize the impact of policy decisions on the appetite of employers to hire new workers. However, unemployed and underemployed people can’t just wait around until vaguely defined group of job skills upgrades are defined, initiated… since there is a sense of urgency for many businesses and workers… According to Richard Riley; challenge for society is to prepare workers for jobs that don’t yet exist… using technologies that haven’t yet been invented… to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.