Posted by: Tom Ross | September 27, 2011

In the News: The Skills Gap

I’ve noticed in the media a different perspective on the present unemployment situation in this country: employers are reporting that, despite what we are hearing and reading, there are a lot of jobs out there. The predicament is that those applying for the jobs are not qualified for the positions. It’s called “the skills gap.” Here is just a sampling of the ‘chatter’ I found searching the media.

Funding Scarce for Training New Hires

There’s widespread consensus that millions of jobs go unfilled in the U.S. because employers can’t find skilled workers. But there’s less agreement on where the money will come from to train those jobless workers. Nobody, it seems, wants to pick up the tab. Employers aren’t stingy about adding and updating skills for existing workers. Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, estimates American companies spend some $130 billion on training costs. “But they don’t want to do qualifying training,” he said. MSNBC, June 23, 2011.

Skills Gap Leaves Firms Without Worker Pipeline

John Russo’s chemical lab in North Kingstown has been growing in recent years, even despite a deflated economy, and he expects to add another 15 to 20 positions to his 49 employees over the next year. But the president of Ultra Scientific Analytical Solutions has found himself in a vexing spot, struggling to fill openings that require specialized training in a state where the jobless rate is close to 11 percent, the third highest in the nation. “It’s very difficult to find the right person, and there’s all walks of life trying to find jobs. I honestly think there’s a large swath of unemployable,” said Russo, whose firm manufactures and supplies analytical standards. “They don’t have any skills at all.”

“Our system for preparing young adults is broken,” said William Symonds, director of the Pathways to Prosperity Project at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. “We’re not saying that the system is failing everybody, but it is leaving a lot of young people behind.”  MSNBC, June 30, 2011

Some Firms Struggle to Hire Despite High Unemployment

…the U.S. education system hasn’t been producing enough people with the highly specialized skills that many companies, particularly in manufacturing, require to keep driving productivity gains. “There are a lot of people who are unemployed, but those aren’t necessarily the people employers are looking for,” says David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2011.

How to Close the Skills Gap

Small-business owners say that they have jobs but can’t find qualified people. As we work to create jobs and get our economy back on track, closing this skills gap needs to be a top priority. A critical first step: reauthorizing and reforming the Workforce Investment Act, our nation’s foundational federal work-force development policy. We also need to expand innovative approaches that have produced results, such as career pathways programs that provide labor-market information to students and job seekers about in-demand jobs, and the skills and education necessary to get them.  Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2011.

St. Louis Employers Say Area Workforce is Not Prepared

…two-thirds of employers in the St. Louis region say it is difficult to find workers qualified to fill vacancies in their offices, shops and factories. This is based on the 2011 State of the St. Louis Workforce Report, an annual survey that this year queried 1,218 area employers along with 408 displaced workers. In addition to a shortage of “work ready” applicants, employers say more than half of the jobseekers they encounter also lack critical thinking and other so-called ‘soft skills.” (St. Louis Today), August 11, 2011.

California needs to connect dropouts to the economy 

California has the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate, with more than 2 million jobless workers, yet many employers still can’t fill job openings that require technical or mechanical skills.

Let’s connect that anomaly to what’s happening, or not happening, with the 6 million kids in California’s public schools. Sacramento Bee, August 14, 2011.

Creating High Schools of the Future

Our high schools of the future must be linked to the real world of work. Schools should prepare students with career-oriented experiences and make connections with community colleges that prepare them for the challenges of higher education and the workplace.  Huffington Post: Education, August 16, 2011.

Companies Are Hiring, Just Not Hiring You

“…qualified workers are missing even in sectors where you would expect to find them. “It’s a very much across-the-board phenomenon,” says Jeffrey Joerres, chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup, the world’s No. 2 provider of temporary workers. “Companies are all feeling the pressure of not finding the level of talent their businesses require.” MSNBC, August 21, 2011.

Lockheed-Martin/IISME fellowship provides Gavilan College Computer Graphics & Design Instructor with workforce insights

According to Gavilan College Computer Graphics & Design instructor Dr. Mclaughlin: “The interdisciplinary nature of today’s workforce requires competency in the ‘four C’s’: ( 1 ) critical thinking, ( 2 ) communications, ( 3 ) collaboration and ( 4 ) creativity along with mastery of the three Rs ( Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic  ). These skills are in high demand in today’s workforce where ‘lean and agile’ employees are in short supply. Media Wire  August 22, 2011.

Guest Blog Post By Victoria Waters, CEO and Founder of Green Education Foundation (GEF), hosted by The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

According to a 2008 United Nations Study, there may be as many as 6.3 million new solar power jobs by 2030, and as many as 3.5 million jobs centered on improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Are our students ready to compete for those and other new economy jobs? The demand for “green collar” workers is coming, and in many cases is already here. Today, unfortunately, we are being outflanked; Brazil and China lead the world in renewable employment globally, according to a 2010 study by Clean Edge, a clean-tech research firm. The imperative is recognized at the highest levels; in September 2010, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated, “As the President says: ‘This is not just going to boost our economy in the short term; this is going to lay a platform for the future.’ Education and sustainability are the keys to our economic future—and our ecological future.” Guest Blog, September 2, 2011.

One Year Out

Fascinating survey of students’ first year beyond high school that explores “how young Americans assess their high school experience and its role in preparing them for their next step in life, including work, post-secondary education, or some combination of experiences.” from Hart Research, 2011.

And there’s more:

 Closing the Skills Gap, City for an Urban Future, NYJuly 14, 2010.

Closing the Skills Gap Among High School Students – New York Times, July 14, 2010.

Can California Compete? Reducing the Skills Gap and Creating a Skilled Workforce Through Linked Learning – America’s Edge, 2011.

Some Firms Struggle to Hire Despite High Unemployment – Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2010:

And it’s worth looking at the resources available from the National Skills Coalition, especially the Reports and Fact Sheets.

Could there be a better justification for career technical education?

And yet in Arizona and other states the news is not good for CTE funding:

State cuts nearly half of money for vocational education

State budget cuts eliminated $30 million to 13 Mountain Institute  joint technical education districts (JTED) statewide to fund freshmen in vocational education programs…cutting the Mountain Institute JTED’s budget nearly in half.
“We had a $1.7 million operating budget last year, which was our second year in existence,” said Ray Polvani, superintendent of the Mountain Institute JTED. “The cuts reduced our budget by 48 percent, or about $800,000.”
At the time, Gov. Jan Brewer said the cuts to vocational education were critical to avoid deeper cuts to money for public schools. But Polvani said cutting funding for vocational education is short sighted, because the demand for skilled workers continues to increase, even in this economy. Prescott, AZ, Daily Courier, September 6, 2011.

What’s happening in your district?


  1. […] In the News: The Skills Gap ( […]

  2. Another report of interest: Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspective on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce, a collaboration of The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, 2006:

  3. And another: Boiling Point: The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing, sponsored by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute:

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