Why Are We Still Talking About a Skills Gap?

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The skills gap that has been in employment news since the mid-1990s continues to be an issue in some areas of the marketplace. The old truism of higher education providing a sufficient supply of qualified and skilled workers for meeting the demands of the job market is in jeopardy. Part of the problem is the rapidly changing job requirements, thanks to many different variables such as the global economy, the changing demographics of the workforce, and even Gordon Moore’s Law about how technology changes by leaps and bounds every 18 to 24 months or so. When we experience increases in microprocessor speed and lower power use–all that stuff that makes things faster while using less battery power means a revolutionizing of the “footprint” of new and current personal handheld (and other) devices and “tools” used in nearly every profession. It’s no surprise that the necessary job skills for these technological advances change in parallel, requiring individuals to make adjustments to their career strategy.

The skills needed to keep pace with these technological advances quickly outpace what many colleges and universities can do to provide the necessary supply of qualified workers, much the way Austin traffic improvement projects are out of date by the time they are completed. In some cases, companies try to pick up the slack with internal training programs, internships, and apprenticeships. In others, community colleges offer quicker solutions for helping fill the skills gap by offering Associate degrees or courses that lead to certain types of licenses or certifications.

While some fields profess a solid inventory of talent for white-collar office positions (usually with bachelor’s, masters or doctorates in tow), the struggling manufacturing sector increasingly may have to rely on trade schools for skilled workers to help add fuel to the nation’s economic engine.

It was Alexander Hamilton who insisted that the future growth of the United States was tied to manufacturing. If Hamilton’s political (and personal) foe, Thomas Jefferson, had had his way, post-Revolutionary War America would have been an agrarian society (Jefferson once wrote that, “…the class of artificers [i.e., manufacturers] as the panders of vice and the instruments by which the liberties of a country are generally overturned.”).

Perhaps we’d be having a different skills gap conversation today.

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Donn LeVie Jr. (The ONE Hire Authority) is a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and has worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). Donn is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, Silver Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

Donn leads career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. He also offers a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Conference planners: Do you need an informative and entertaining keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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