The Future Labor Force?

Everyone is talking about unemployment, but the fact is there are many jobs that are going unfilled. There are many reasons why this is the case. Nick Schultz discussed the other day in the WSJ. His article involved comments made at a recent dinner in Washington D.C. Schultz’s point is that “finding qualified applicants can be quite difficult.”

I found this article very interesting. Many of the representatives at this dinner were from the manufacturing sector. One representative described his number one problem with finding qualified people involved a problem with passing a drug test. Another representative stated, “applicants were so underqualified that simply finding someone who could answer the telephone was sometimes a challenge.”

More than 600,000 jobs in manufacturing were unfilled in 2011 due to a skills shortage. But what are the skills that are missing? Are they purely technical skills? Or is there something even more important?

Obviously the STEM skills are lacking in this country. Therefore, secondary education outlets have begun to emphasize those skills, but even more important it seems is the importance of soft skills. These missing elements include interpersonal skills, work ethic, and intrinsic motivation. On top of this there seems to be an inability to communicate with the written word and verbally.

A recent survey supports what these employers were saying at this dinner.  “The SHRM/AARP survey found that professionalism and work ethic is the top applied skill that younger workers lack.” Other surveys have identified punctuality and reliability as a problem. All of these missing social skills can affect human capital, in other words, people working together for the good of the organization.

What will is take to fix this problem? Obviously the fix is bigger than industry. The fix will need a congruent action from education and business. With the aging of the baby boomers, and the changing work environment, it is critical that we prepare our future work force. You better believe that our competitor countries are!

And that is my thought for the day!


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