Monday, October 24, 2011

The Experience Trap

The WSJ ran an interesting article today examining the problem U.S. companies are having finding qualified employees for a variety of jobs. The author hones in on what can be described as an "experience gap." Prospective employees are ineligible for open positions because they lack experience, yet no one is willing to hire them and give them that experience. Unpaid internships are fiercely competitive as a result. I have personally been frustrated by the dearth of "entry level positions" in previous job hunts. To a certain extent, this is not a new problem.
A few thoughts:
Notice in the graphic that "drivers" moved up from number 7 in "hardest jobs for U.S. employers to fill" to number 4. Changes in laws about commercial licensing may be the culprit in this case. Anecdotal evidence from here in York, PA suggests that obtaining and maintaining  a license for a school bus has become so cumbersome that bus companies are turning away work for lack of drivers.
Similarly, one has to suspect that federal NCLB requirements are behind the sudden appearance of teachers in the top ten list for 2011. While most school systems are cutting jobs and doing more with less, the "highly qualified" designation is now mandatory. As the job of a public school teacher gets more difficult, and pay fails to keep pace, this job will become increasingly difficult to sell.
At the same time, I find the overall premise of the article slightly hard to believe. Are U.S companies really that short-sighted? I tend to think that if it really made economic sense to train the necessary workforce companies would do it. Every employer is going to wish for the ideal candidate, fully trained and ready to work for an entry level wage. If at some point these companies found that robust training programs were worthwhile, I think they would have them up and running in a heartbeat. The truth is, despite complaints, there are plenty of good fish in the sea.
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