Photo: Flickr/marc falardeau
A common refrain among American companies is that there are plenty of jobs out there, but that they simply can’t find the people with the right skills to fill them. The Manufacturing Institute estimates that there are as many as 600,000 manufacturing jobs that are unfilled for exactly that reason.In a recent book reviewed at strategy+business, Wharton School of Management Professor Peter Capelli argues that it’s not because people are unmotivated or unwilling to do these kind of jobs, it’s that corporations are unwilling to train people, and that the hiring culture in this country has become toxic.
He calls it a “Home Depot view of the hiring process.” Instead of viewing employees as investments or putting some time into training an internal candidate, employers want an exact fit. They treat hiring like going to the store to buy a new part for something, not a human process.
That’s led to a wildly dysfunctional and self-perpetuating cycle. Training has given way to poaching. And when companies lose their training investment to poachers, they cut training more, and start depending on poaching themselves.
The solution, many argue, is for more students and schools to focus on engineering and computer science. But even those jobs often last only as long as the current project, even in Silicon Valley.
Companies have created an environment where it’s considered a poor investment to hire somebody for a long time, and have created a generation of workers who don’t expect to be anywhere for very long. Countries that have strong apprenticeship programs and actually train workers, have much lower skills gaps.
Though Capelli makes a compelling point about the role companies play in this, training isn’t the only problem. There’s also a perception issue, particularly when it comes to manufacturing jobs. Parents like the idea of manufacturing jobs and trade schools, but not for their own children. There’s still the idea that the jobs are low-paying and low-skill, when that’s often not the case.
Further, there’s not enough data available about where jobs are and the skills required to get them. That’s an area where educators, government, and businesses need to collaborate.
But unless companies show a willingness to commit to employees and make the pathway to steady jobs easier, they’re not offering much of an incentive for people to commit to learning the skills they say they need.
Find the book here.
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