OUR OPINION: A 'jobs/skills' mismatch? This problem can be solved
The problem, as described by the Star Tribune, in summarizing Gov. Mark Dayton's daylong jobs summit this week: "As businesses adapt to a shifting economy, they leave behind a glut of unemployed workers from waning industries who are not qualifie...
The problem, as described by the Star Tribune, in summarizing Gov. Mark Dayton's daylong jobs summit this week:
"As businesses adapt to a shifting economy, they leave behind a glut of unemployed workers from waning industries who are not qualified for the new jobs being created. ... (At the summit), frustrated business leaders gathered from all parts of the state to say they have hundreds of openings but can't find workers qualified to fill them."
The solution, as suggested by Peter Cappelli, management professor at the University of Pennsylvania:
Turn to some old-fashioned methods that companies used to use, including apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Then figure out ways to make them both attractive to job-hunters and affordable to their employers.
Cappelli detailed his suggestions in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this week. By coincidence, it addressed the problem Dayton's summit focused on, namely this:
"Even with unemployment hovering around 9 percent, companies are grousing that they can't find skilled workers, and filling a job can take months of hunting," as Cappelli wrote.
Cappelli's answer focused on ways the companies can help themselves. Their best bet may be to raise wages. A job that goes unfilled at $25 an hour will get thousands of ready candidates applications at $200 an hour.
Of course, $200 an hour is wildly unaffordable for most firms. But what about $30 or $40 an hour? The same basic principle holds; and sooner or later, the company will find a wage level that attracts many qualified candidates.
But for many firms, even those wages might be a stretch. What then?
"To get America's job engine revving again, companies need to stop pinning so much of the blame on our nation's education system," Cappelli suggests.
"They need to drop the idea of finding perfect candidates and look for people who could do the job with a bit of training and practice."
One way is through informal apprenticeships. "In this arrangement, apprentices are paid less while they are mastering their craft -- so employers aren't paying for training and a big salary at the same time," he writes.
"Accounting firms, law firms and professional-services firms have long operated this way, and have made lots of money off their young associates."
An even less costly idea: Promise work in return for training. "If job candidates don't have the skills you need, make them go to school before you hire them," Cappelli suggests.
Many candidates would be glad to pay for their own training if they knew a good job awaited them upon completion.
As problems go, a jobs/skills mismatch is a good one for society to have. That's because it can be solved by partnerships and creative thinking.
So, lawmakers and corporate leaders should tackle the problem with enthusiasm, keeping the above point in mind. For as Cappelli notes, "it's an important instance where company self-interest and societal interest just happen to coincide."
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald