Workplace Woes

Why workers can’t find employers and why employers can’t find the workers they want

We’ve all heard by now about the reported skills shortage that exists in the U.S., specifically among engineers, IT professionals, financial professionals, and healthcare workers—and if you haven’t, check out Randstad’s Inspiring Experts.

But if there’s a skills shortage, then why are 32 percent of 18–29 year olds underemployed? Sounds like a missed opportunity to me—where clearly there are people looking for work but not finding it.

It all starts with a good education

By good education I don’t mean an Ivy League sign-off, but rather, a degree that’s needed—degrees that will lead to an abundance of open positions.

Salary.com, which features compensation ranges and salary comparisons based on job openings and skill sets, recently published an article on degrees with the worst Return on Investment. Now, this enters slightly into the money versus happiness realm, but regardless, it’s worth taking a look at which degrees people are naturally drawn to, and that there are an abundance of, compared to what’s going to get you a job after the fact.

What’s been found is that there are a lot of psychology majors out there but not nearly enough engineers. There are too many communications graduates but the IT industry is hard hit up. There’s a lot of attraction to the fine arts and graphic design but what we really need are healthcare workers and financial professionals.

But, aside from the noted shortage, which is predominantly attributed to this lack of graduates in particular areas of work, what else is going on that’s causing jobs to remain open and people to remain underemployed, or unemployed altogether?

It’s not all the economy’s fault

In 2011, The Wall Street Journal featured an article on, and properly titled, Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need. Interestingly, the blame cannot be solely attributed to an educational issue, or an economic falter for that matter. In part, employers need to become more realistic in their expectations and take ownership for their onboarding process.

What can be done NOW

It’s a magical moment of happenstance—where the self-interest of today’s companies and the better interest of the society at large coincide. By following a few simples steps, employers might just land the viable candidates for some of their most (seemingly) unfillable positions.

  1. Purple Squirrels. Companies have it out for, what some of us in the staffing industry call, purple squirrels. They want this impossible combination of skills that no single person likely possesses—and if they do, it’s probably not at a very high level. I think there needs to be a general reset of expectations. Employers, consider what you’re really looking for and pair it down into a realistic skill set—not a Christmas wish list of every ideal you can think of. Sure it’d be nice to have a graphic designer who was somehow a hybrid of a journalist, meets a copyeditor, meets an event manager—but be realistic.

  2. Apprenticeships and Internships. Remember the good ol’ days when we weren’t all pretending to be good at everything? When there was an appreciation for a specialist. When you’d go into a shop and there’d be a younger version of the store operator apprenticing? We’ve moved away from this on-the-job style of training and nothing could be more important. And, if companies aren’t willing to pay for the training or education needed to be what they’re looking for, then they should elongate the probationary period of their employees. Lesser pay for more learning. Employees will appreciate the opportunity and employers will benefit from the specialization gained during this beginning ramp-up time.

  3. Look around you. Your talent pool just got deeper. Not looking—and I mean really looking—internally before looking externally is one of the biggest mistakes companies today are making. The talent pool is all around you—tap into it. Develop it. The purple squirrel that you’re in search of might just be sitting two cubicles outside your office.
By: Brittney Murray / On: June 11, 2013 /

In: Careers, Job Seeker, Career Paths

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