Skills Gap Grows Ever Wider As Recovery Slogs On

Lack of qualified job applicantsIt may be difficult to believe, but during this period of stubbornly high unemployment, many jobs are going unfilled because of a lack of qualified applicants.

More than half of companies surveyed report challenges in finding candidates with the right skills, according to a recent report cited in an Op-Ed last week in The Wall Street Journal.

The article, written by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), notes the skills gap has greater impact on smaller businesses, with 67 percent of those polled saying that finding skilled workers was difficult.

Moreover, the lawmakers say, while half of small-business owners hired new workers last year, 42 percent of them hired "fewer [employees] than needed," with a majority citing a lack of qualified applicants as the reason positions went unfilled.

The problem is so acute that some larger companies are taking extraordinary steps to insure schools are educating students in in-demand fields.

For example, IBM, in an effort to ensure it has adequate pool of talent from which to draw, began its so-called IBM Academic Initiative nearly a decade ago.

The programs seeks to attract more students to studies in science, technology, engineering and math -- so-called "STEM" fields -- by providing resources to schools and colleges, including software, computing capacity and more.

IBM needs graduates adept at taking on the challenges facing society, business and government and "to be able to apply technology and come up with innovative solutions ... to solve those problems," Kevin Faughnan, director of the IBM Academic Initiative, recently told AOL's DailyFinance.

Though workers' lack of skills has been a perennial problem in the U.S., the gap between needs of employers and applicants' qualifications has only grown wider as the nascent economic recovery has sputtered in recent months, says Roger Norton, dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

"The gap I think is growing actually even wider than it was perhaps a year ago," Norton told AOL Jobs. Despite the rebound in the economy, companies aren't keen on spending money.

"They're not buying technology, they're not doing training ... even though they could," he says.

For job seekers, pay is one good reason to pursue a career in STEM fields. Students graduating with degrees in computer science, information technology or information systems earn initial salaries of $60,000 to $80,000 a year -- and many also receive signing bonuses to encourage them to seal the deal.

While aptitude is important, students shouldn't be dissuaded from pursuing careers in STEM fields for fear that they don't possess the smarts. A review of average SAT scores shows that students enrolled in Marist's computer science program aren't that much smarter than those in other parts of the college, Norton says.

Though the problem won't easily be solved, changing young peoples' perceptions about science, technology, engineering and math-related careers is undoubtedly part of the solution.

Many American teenagers perceive the professions as "uncool," a view not shared by their cohorts in developing nations, where finding a well-paying job is paramount.

Even if perceptions changed overnight, however, filling America's job gap will still take time. Some fields requires years of training and additional education -- and that's if students are prepared -- and can afford -- to begin immediately.

And that's where the federal government could help out. Rather than cutting funding to programs in a desperate yet short-sighted need to curb the deficit, Washington should be funding programs to help boost workers' skills.

As Murray and Landrieu point out, the nation's dearth of skilled workers "is a consequence of our failure to seriously invest in the education of America's workforce."

But until Congress begins to take the problem seriously and starts funding programs to begin tackling it, plenty more jobs will go wanting -- and many more Americans will struggle to find employment.


Next: Young People Take The Economy Into Their Own Hands

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David Schepp

Staff Writer

David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.

Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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sfcat

Some of this is the fault of the companies. I'm a senior professional Business Analyst, and lately, I've seen a lot of job reqs that have a ridiculous number of requirements; specialties in very specific industry information coupled with multiple programming languages, often uncommon ones. Add experience with specific software- and similar software isn't acceptable- and you have a recipe for failure! Companies don't want to be reasonable and hire great professionals that would be able to learn one of the items, they want everything at once.

August 19 2011 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeff/JB/Harry

Employers are creating this problem and blaming it on "lack of skills". The main problem is there is little if any loyalty shown by employers to long term employees these days. Long time employees earn the highest pay and are the first to be terminated in an effort to save a buck. This has also led to our lack of tax money and nationwide economic woes.

August 17 2011 at 8:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Jeff/JB/Harry

Employers are creating this problem and blaming it on "lack of skills". The main problem is there is little if any loyalty shown by employers to long term employees these days. Long time employees earn the highest pay and are the first to be terminated in an effort to save a buck. This has also led to our lack of tax money and nationwide economic woes.

August 17 2011 at 8:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
jgriz2000

maybe today's students should try getting degrees in skills that companies need rather than "feel good" stuff that has no application in the real world

August 17 2011 at 7:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Erica

Let's see; No Child Left Behind allows students to be passed forward whether they learned anything or not; US education is steadily and rapidly dropping towards the bottom of the list in ratings; educational funding is being constantly pared back. And people are surprised that jobs can't find new (young) employees with skills? Try some of the older people you laid off!

August 17 2011 at 7:16 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
jmg62

Siemens Corporation - a German firm - saw the proposal Pres. Obama submitted to Congress for his Green Agenda and sought to open a solar energy and wind energy operation in Georgia and Louisianna with a R&D facilty in conjunction with UofG. Going forward they looked at the incentives from the Federal Gov. and the local communities they looked into and were sourcing materials to begin manufacturing when the proposal came out of Congress - after the Republicans and Tea-Baggers examined it with their "friends" in oil, coal and natural gas - they withdrew. Gone were the incentives, tax breaks and funds for education for the communities to have ready workers available (which Siemens was going to share in) not even mentioning the investment they were prepared to make ($30billion in all) in the US and not only were the plants ultimately opened in Brazil and China sooner than they could've been in the US - but China actually builds houses with solar energy standard so they had a "ready market" when they did begin manufacturing. Training for engineering and construction were gone in America even for our own national firms to partake of. Start ups in America are having trouble "bucking" the system the Congress has put in place because the energy corporations are protecting their profits at the expense of American's looking for jobs. Other nations are using 3rd generation solar power and wind turbines producing half again as much power elsewhere as the US stays lagging sorrily behind. THANK YOU! Republicans! Once jobs are gone you can't bring them back! Idiots!

August 17 2011 at 6:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to jmg62's comment
Steven

How true and i think the republicans have done more harm to this country than any terrorist ever has done , maybe the bone-head Grover boys should be charged with treason!!

August 17 2011 at 7:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
lulu0510

When are you going to admit that solar and wind are not the solution to America's energy needs. Dont try to buldoze me. I am an energy engineer. This solar and wind business is all garbage to be sold to the ignorant. Other countries want us to utilize it because they know its uneconomical but they want to sell us the useless crap. The Chinese use solar energy economically by heating domestic hot water for home use. Wind energy is used economically in cases where intermittent use can be accomodated as in pumping operations. Anyone that thinks that wind and solar can replace coal, oil, gas, nuclear and hydroelectric is fooling themselves or trying to fool others. Why is the rest of the world going nuclear? The south Koreans are building packaged nuclear plants and selling them like crazy. The Canadian economy is booming from their exploitation of their oil and gas industries. Meanwhile the American economy is going down the drain because of the false propaganda spread by ignorant liberals and environmentalists. The recent disaster in Jaqpan was the result of sheer stupidity. In America a nuclear plant would never be built in a tsunami zone or without safe adequate backup electrical power. American plants were upgraded in the late 1980's to resolve these problems. Where in the world are there solar and wind installations such as those being touted to the American public? Nowhere. So dont thank the Republicans for our insane energy policies and lack of jobs. Thank instead those liberals and environmental activists who spread the false information on the potential of wind and solar energy to create jobs and sustain our energy needs.

August 17 2011 at 8:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lulu0510's comment
sfcat

I don't believe you. And, if wind is useless, why is there a field of windmills about 15 minutes from my house? The power company wouldn't bother putting them up and maintaining them if it wasn't profitable.

August 19 2011 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
vietnamvet1967

Bull, they just want to hire Illegals at low wages

August 17 2011 at 6:54 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
petpetdonna

Jobs are not going unfilled because people aren't qualified. The real problem is that they are over qualified. The other real problem is that they are in their late 40s and 50s. Employers ARE discriminating against older applicants. Employers think that they will have to pay the older people more money, when in reality these people need jobs to pay their mortgages and other bills. Their unemployment has run out and they are trying to make it on food stamps and food pantries. The companies NEED TO WAKE UP and hire the older more experienced workers. They will actually work because they have a better work ethic then the 20 somethings. They are more loyal, don't take many days off and will be glad to take the job/ ARE YOU LISTENING COMPANIES???????

August 17 2011 at 6:38 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Vernetta

I simply do not believe that there are not enough qualified workers to fill the positions that corporations are "crying" that they need. Surely, out of 14 million unemployed workers, there are more than enough well educated, well trained, and experienced workers. These rich and super rich CEO's have to come up with a better reason for not hiring.

August 17 2011 at 6:12 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Mariana

This is such a lie... I am so tired of hearing such garbage. There are plenty of people in this country qualified for these jobs. There are plenty of people in this country with Computer Programming Degrees and Math degrees. The truth is that employers have been gradually outsourcing these jobs since the dot com bust . Another reason why employers put out these ridiculous stories is because if they can show that we do not have the talent in this country they can hire foreigners to work on H1 visas for a lot less than Americans. Let's call it what it really is. A lot of jobs have left this country not becuase of lack of talent but because of lack of integrity on the part of our own executives concerned only about their reputation and the bottom line. We have no jobs because we sent them all out and the government has done nothing to stop this bleeding.. GREED.

August 17 2011 at 6:04 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mariana's comment
rdaffron

and the truth is that the companies HAD qualified workers and fired them because they didn't want to pay them anymore. Then they bitch and moan and groan that they can't find workers with the qualifications of the people they fired.

Well, DUH! It takes time to gain the skills and the experience. That time and experience is not to be paid for with slave labor wages, which is what the companies want.

They had the people with the skills and CHOSE to fire them instead of paying them.

August 17 2011 at 8:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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