There Has Always Been A Job Skills Gap


Girl Scouts of the United States of AmericaThere has always been a skills gap in the modern workforce.

Yes, there are universities that educate scientists, chemists and engineers. There are industries where training is absolutely required before you go to work. But most of us come to work knowing very little. The majority of us have had extensive on-the-job-training.

People are not born knowing how to work in a factory. Most workers in the 90s were never taught how to operate a fax machine or use the newfangled internet. I never went to school to learn how to be a ‘Human Resources party planner’ or manage an employee relations issue.

I will tell you that I’ve been in the corporate workforce since 1995 and I have never worked for a company where someone didn’t say, “We can’t find enough good people.”

Whether it’s candy factory workers or chemical engineers, there is always a shortage of talented people who can do the job, demonstrate common sense, and have a solid work ethic. When we find those people, the laws of supply and demand force us to pay them good money.

And back in the day, companies would invest in local schools and mentoring programs to develop and train a new generation of workers. We had business leaders who invested time and money in Junior Achievement, Girl Scouts, and high school co-op programs.

Remember apprenticeships before Donald Trump messed that up?

Now we have two things happening: legitimate skills gaps in certain industries (engineering, high tech) and then we have a bunch of whiny business leaders and HR professionals who piggyback on those legitimate concerns and say stupid things like, “We get 600 resumes for a position but we can’t find anyone to fill our marketing coordinator jobs. The people with the right talents don’t exist.”

Uhm, yeah, go stuff yourself.

Right now, employers are paralyzed by the sheer volume of choices in the employment marketplace. Instead of hiring the cream of the crop, they make assumptions about unemployed workers and label current applicants as the cream of the crap.

And instead of figuring out their corporate goals and using both HR technology and proactive recruiting methodologies to narrow down the selection field, they look for a needle  in the haystack and attempt to digest the sum total of the resumes that filter in through unreliable recruiting systems.

It’s the paradox of choice. Employers mistake their inability to choose for a problem with the modern American workforce.

There’s also the tendency to assume that someone cheaper and more talented is out there. The ideal candidate may or may not exist but employers are in a position where they can wait and take their chances.

Do we face a skills gap in certain industries? Sure. Do we have an obligation to train the 21st century workforce if we want to produce goods and services? Absolutely. Labor ain’t free. (Not until Mitt Romney is president, anyway.)

I also firmly believe that if you hire someone for acumen and potential — and take a chance on a candidate with a 60% skill fit — you’ll do okay.

So stop blaming the workforce and start looking at yo’selves. Especially you, lazy HR lady. Quit being the gatekeeper and start getting people back to work.

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