Skip to content now.

A shortage of skilled workers is keeping companies up at night

Apr 16, 2012 / Workforce / Trackback

All this talk about unem­ploy­ment still being too high — I agree, every­one who can work ought to. That is most every­one because no mat­ter what your sit­u­a­tion is most likely you can do some type of work. All work is dig­ni­fied and equally impor­tant (except for a cou­ple of jobs I don’t want to talk about right now — and yes, they are legal). So, whether one works as a deodor­ant tester, in waste man­age­ment, as an audi­ence extra or in geo­physics it’s all good.

There are many rea­sons peo­ple are unem­ployed. Many rea­sons. Under­em­ploy­ment is one thing — it sucks. But for the per­son of aver­age intel­lect and abil­ity, to be unable to attain any type of employ­ment is really rather dif­fi­cult to fathom. Peo­ple tend to hold out look­ing for their dream job until the end of unem­ploy­ment com­pen­sa­tion is near and then they feel ‘forced’ to settle.

Employ­ers on the other hand have another issue, one they are really begin­ning to ring their hands and bells about. Indus­try­Week has a poll going and I saw it in an email update this morn­ing. The ques­tion is, What is your company’s biggest chal­lenge right now? The win­ner may be sur­pris­ing to many — it isn’t the econ­omy, tax cred­its or over­seas com­pe­ti­tion, it’s short­age of skilled workers.

As a job seeker that must seem so con­fus­ing. If you are read­ing this there is a very high prob­a­bil­ity you grad­u­ated high school and quite a good chance you have at least an under­grad­u­ate col­lege degree. How could it be that the num­ber one chal­lenge for com­pa­nies today is find­ing skilled workers?

Some com­pa­nies like AT&T,feeling the pinch of a clearly iden­ti­fied tal­ent gap between the US and for­eign coun­tries — par­tic­u­larly in highly tech­ni­cal fields for jobs that out­sourc­ing really isn’t an option,are start­ing to take mat­ters into their own hands. AT&T is going as far as to cre­ate com­mu­nity pro­grams to ensure a skilled can­di­date pipeline. “We are inter­view­ing 11 peo­ple to find one qual­i­fied can­di­date,” AT&T CEO Ran­dall Stephen­son told CNN­Money in arecent inter­view. “It’s stun­ning to me.” To help stop the gap so they can con­tinue to do busi­ness, they are putting out $350m to groom new US work­ers through their Aspire program.

Woods Bagot recently com­mis­sioned Global Strat­egy Group, a promi­nent research firm, to con­duct an online sur­vey of over 500 elite busi­ness decision-makers across North America.The results show that grad­u­ates are falling short of expec­ta­tions, espe­cially on highly val­ued attrib­utes like prob­lem solv­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tion, writ­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tions and critical-thinking skills, while they are exceed­ing expec­ta­tions on little-valued social media and tech­nol­ogy skills. The study cried so loud that For­tune screamed Exec­u­tives to new grads: Shape up!

Tenured work­ers have their own chal­lenges in the areas of remain­ing rel­e­vant, upskilling and being flex­i­ble with the demands of the ‘new work­place’ (or at least it’s a per­cep­tion bias called ageism).

Laid-off work­ers ages 50 and older are about one-third less likely to get hired than younger job-seekers, accord­ing to a study by the Urban Insti­tute, a Washington-based think tank. — Chicago Tri­bune

The answer toap­peas­ing and meet­ing employer needs is com­pli­cated at the soci­etal level. We need to revamp edu­ca­tion, launch pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns about indus­try, econ­omy and where the real oppor­tu­ni­ties are, help peo­ple make informed choices about careers and rethink the way the employ­ment model we have been under since in the indus­trial rev­o­lu­tion busted onto the scene is fal­ter­ing. We also need to con­tem­plate changes to what the term ‘career’ has tra­di­tion­ally meant and what it is mor­ph­ing into.

While you may laugh (or cry) out of frus­tra­tion because none of the para­graph above can pos­si­bly hap­pen in time to help you — there are things you can do at the indi­vid­ual con­trib­u­tor level.

If you are strug­gling to find suit­able work the first thing you can do is stop sub­mit­ting your resume and start request­ing infor­ma­tional inter­views to see where the gap is between what you bring to the table and employ­ers want.

Fol­low that up with hav­ing your doc­u­men­ta­tion aka cover let­ter and rsum cri­tiqued by some­one in the field at man­age­ment level that you trust that isn’t a friend.

Then, apply the feed­back you have received — for surely you will have received some very valu­able advice.

In the short term, unem­ploy­ment is the per­fect time to regroup, get an edu­cated han­dle on the future and come back stronger than ever.

You can do it.


Neil - This of course does not surprise me. However, the post is based on data not unicorns so please consider it a little more.