Jobs, Skills, and Worker Shortages

As I looked through my folder of articles I’ve saved as topics for my newsletters and posts the number one topic, by a landslide, was the topic of jobs and employees.

Here are a few of the article topics:

  • There are 200,000 unfilled construction jobs as 30% of construction workers found new industries after the Great Recession.
  • Trump threats about tariffs and his going after Ford and Carrier and their Mexico plans.
  • The shortage of workers to fill many, many positions in a variety of industries. (As a sidebar item, our family cabin is in northern Wisconsin and in the county with the State’s highest unemployment rate. Yet last year restaurants couldn’t fully staff their operations because people didn’t want to work as they’d have to give up their State benefits.)

Here are some headlines:

  • Good help wanted, but hard to find
  • What would it take to return mill jobs to Trump county?
  • Factory workers demand winner deliver the goods
  • Skilled workers in short supply

The above is interesting (and true). In the day-to-day world of small business here’s what I’m hearing:

Owners are incredibly interested in how to attract, retain, and motivate good employees.

My annual client breakfast had requests for a speaker on employee issues (Jack Goldberg with Personnel Management Systems, Inc., the leading HR outsourcing firm in Seattle). My group of business owners repeatedly asks for presenters on attracting and retaining people. When  CEOs speak to us the questions always include some about people.

The disconnect as I see it, and I’m not the only one, is many of the people looking for work don’t have the skills for the available jobs. No matter what any politician says, someone trained to do maintenance or work in a low-tech factory doesn’t have what Microsoft, Apple, Google, and all the small tech companies need (and they don’t have the right skills to get a construction job or work in a high-tech factory). It’s why there are 500,000 unfilled tech jobs in this country (plus the 200,000 unfilled construction jobs and why good CNC machinists are at a premium). This makes keeping good people more important than ever (and why tech salaries have skyrocketed).

Some things aren’t going to change. It takes a person to build a building or program a computer. But now one person can program a machine that will work all night cranking out parts with no human supervision. Then that person moves to the next machine and does the same thing. What used to take many people over multiple shifts now takes one person on one shift.

Conclusion

In my opinion is education is the answer. As you get this I just returned from Antigua working on a Rotary service project. Our theme is, “Improving Education Through Technology.” Our goal is for the teachers to better reach their students by using computers, tablets, Wi-Fi networks, etc. instead of a blackboard. Not that blackboards don’t work, but it’s all about reaching your audience and the best way to reach kids is to teach via what they are using all the time outside of school, i.e. devices with screens.

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