Your Skills Are Obsolete and Now We Cannot Hire You: A Proposed Solution

by Michael Haberman on July 6, 2010 · 4 comments


A New York Times article published Friday July 2nd, entitled Factory Jobs Return, but Employers Find Skills Shortage, it was pointed out that many factories are in a hiring mode again. They are ready to restaff and get production cranked up. So what is the problem? Just call back those folks laid off a year or two ago and put them to work! Well, unfortunately that is not the solution. During the intervening time between layoff and current need these factories have retooled. They are now more automated and computer controlled and the people that used to work in the factories DO NOT HAVE THE SKILLS to do the work as currently needed. And the employers who spent all their money to retool probably are not able to spend the money to retrain people. Employers expect workers to get their skills up-to-date using available programs, such as the Workforce Investment Act, which provides money for retraining. Unfortunately it is not working. Perhaps for a couple of reasons.

Many of the job cuts that were made involved unskilled labor. Many of the workers in such jobs may not have the education, or the “smarts” or the desire to learn a new skill that requires a higher level of education, or math skills, or computer skills, etc. Many of these workers, and even some semi-skilled workers, continue to look for the type of work they have always done, not realizing or refusing to realize, that the work they have done in the past has gone forever. Kind of reminds me of Einstein’s quote on Insanity. “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Some of the people I know refuse to get education or to change fields. This attitude has been listed as one of the root causes of male unemployment being higher than female unemployment. (See my post on the Great Sex Divide in Unemployment and Retraining.) They get frustrated, discouraged, or lazy and never start or quit quickly. So for these folks unemployment will be long. And the bad news is the benefits have dried up. So what is the solution? Unfortunately the voluntary programs are not working, at least not as well as they should.

I offer this solution as an alternative. Congress needs to get their act together and decide how they can pay for unemployment benefits. Once they do, offer unemployment benefits under the following condition, MANDATORY TRAINING. You only get the benefits if you get into programs that will give you the skill sets you will need to work in an industry that is looking for workers. Everyone gets math, science, language and computer skills. You don’t want to spend time in a classroom? Fine, your choice. But you don’t get money from the taxpayers to finance your sloth.

For some people this is going to require a MAJOR ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT. Many employers are reporting that part of the reason they are having a hard time finding the right workers is ATTITUDE. People who don’t want to learn are not going to get hired. I know you may have spent the last 20 years doing (fill in the blank) but it is not working and you have to decide it is time to move on.

I know my solution is much more complex than what I stated. There would be alot of logistics involved in such an educational movement. But it needs to start, sooner rather than later. And if it doesn’t we will be in a world of hurt as a country. Making “shovel ready” jobs is not a long term solution. I think politicians and many unemployed workers need a good swift kick in the pants, especially the politicians.

So how do we get this started? “Buhler?”

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara A Hughes July 6, 2010 at 10:13 am

Great post, Mike. You're right, this is a complex problem involving a lot of constituents including politicians and it is not a 90-day program.
I think that what SHRM Atlanta is doing with its Building a Better Atlanta initiative is the type of fight this problem deserves. The initiative includes the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, local government and the education professionals all working toward the same vision: a Better Atlanta. These are the primary groups that are subject matter experts and that all have a vested interest in seeing this city and the surrounding counties compete successfully in job creation, sustainable commercial ventures and capability building through education at all levels.

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Barbara Hughes July 6, 2010 at 10:24 am

The following post was left by Barbara Hughes of Intellectual Capital Consulting, however, a glitch kept it from posting correctly. So it has been copied and pasted.

Great post, Mike. You're right, this is a complex problem involving a lot of constituents including politicians and it is not a 90-day program.
I think that what SHRM Atlanta is doing with its Building a Better Atlanta initiative is the type of fight this problem deserves. The initiative includes the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, local government and the education professionals all working toward the same vision: a Better Atlanta. These are the primary groups that are subject matter experts and that all have a vested interest in seeing this city and the surrounding counties compete successfully in job creation, sustainable commercial ventures and capability building through education at all levels.

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Michael D. Haberman, SPHR July 6, 2010 at 10:27 am

Barbara, thanks for pointing out the great effort in Atlanta. However, this is a bigger problem throughout the courntry. How can SHRM and the HR profession lead the effort or at least help drive the bus to get all the parties working together to solve this problem, and soon.

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Cathy Missildine-Martin, SPHR July 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

I think that you bring up some very interesting points as usual. I also feel htere is another talent gap out there as well. Recent graduates. They come out of school, htey go to work and what heppens, companies have to train them. Why? Graduates weren't taught the basics of business while in school.

So, I htink the problem is really wide-spread we have obsoleteness and unpreparedness.

It is such an education problem. The question becomes who's job is it? Government, Education, private business.

I think it is up to the indiviudual to recognize that times have changed, skills have changed and they need to figure out how to fill the gap. Now those gaps can be from government programs on retraining, those are excellent. Tey can be courses at colleges, etc.

The key is the marriage betwen what businesses need and what government and education provide. How can we close that gap?

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