Skills gap: reality or myth?
The presumed mismatch between the skills of the workforce and the needs of employers, commonly referred to as the “skills gap,” has garnered the attention of politicians, employers, economic developers, and professionals in workforce and education. A number of authoritative sources—Manpower, Deloitte, McKinsey—point to statistics which show that, despite relatively high levels of unemployment, a number of jobs are going unfilled because employers can’t find candidates with the skills they want. This issue will be the subject of discussion led by TIP’s president and CEO, Tom Stellman, at the Texas Economic Development Council’s 2013 Legislative Conference this week. Get a preview of his slides here.
Several factors are contributing to this gap, including an aging workforce, an education system focused on 4-year degrees, the growing use of automation, and distortions caused by the labor demands of the energy sector. Yet some argue the current situation is less of a “skills” gap than a “wage” gap. Manufacturing wages have stagnated as the value of goods produced per worker has soared. This lackluster performance can make it even harder to attract young workers to manufacturing careers, particularly in a culture that often perceives the industry as a less–than-desirable option for its children.
Even if we could agree on its existence, the question of how best to fill it remains. Focusing on education is at the heart of many initiatives. Yet even if education is the answer, the challenges of timing the flow of workers with the needs of industry remains. Trying to predict which skills will be in demand can result in well-meaning training programs that produce a number of workers in a particular industry only to find that the economy has moved on and left these newly minted skills in the dust.
So, reality or myth? Maybe, like many of life’s questions, the answer is a little of both.
NOTE: The Geography of Jobs slide is a data visualization- go to http://tipstrategies.com/geography-of-jobs/ to see the animation.