Thursday, February 16

"Getting the worker is becoming a problem"

Unemployment claims are down.  That may only mean that fewer people are still getting unemployment or more people have dropped off the unemployment rolls.  It doesn't necessarily mean that unemployment is actually down.

Obama's approval ratings are up.  I'm sure there's a correlation.

And there are jobs to be had.  If you're a machinist or have specific manufacturing skills.  Some time ago we made technical jobs less than attractive, or simply shipped them off to far-flung countries for a variety of reasons, some of which might make sense and are reasonably good. . . but not the point.

Here is a small manufacturing company in Georgia who can't hire the people he needs.  Now.  I suspect he's not alone.

I remember a conversation some time when several of us were talking about the seeming collapse of the vocational or technical school, and not just because jobs were going elsewhere.  Somewhere along the line we made important jobs seem unimportant.

Every Friday morning I'm grateful for the guy who drives to my house to pick up my trash and recyclables.  Not sexy; not glamorous, but absolutely necessary.  When my garage door decided not to open any more, I was immensely grateful for the guy who came over and made some recommendations that not only improved what I had but cost less than I thought it would.  And when I needed some work done on my driveway, the man who gave the estimate talked about planes and leveling and all kinds of math stuff to make sure the work they did worked the way he expected.

I think we forget how technical some of these jobs are.  I know the guys who work on my car need to know more about different things than they did a decade or so ago.  And as cars get more electrical and technical, the kinds of skills and knowledge they will have to have will continue to get more complex.

If I were a high school guidance counselor, I'd been steering some of my students to vocational technical programs.  Good pay and important work.  Nothing to be ashamed of.

If I were a parent of a high school or college kid, I'd suggest investigating the possibility of an internship or a summer job at some place off the typical radar to learn some skills that might be useful some day.  And if that kid already likes to tinker with stuff, even better.

If I were an employer like this guy in Georgia, I'd work with some of my retired employees to build that training program and implement it now.  Stop trying to find skilled workers that don't exist.  Pay those retired folks a fair wage to help train and mentor folks with capability but no formal training.  Pay those trainees less than someone who has the real deal skills and get 'er done.

If the new normal is that there aren't workers with the needed skills, then the new normal is to train those folks the way you need and want them trained.  Innovation + entrepreneurialism.  Nothing wrong with that.


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