Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The job mismatch

In the United States, and in many other societies, preparation for employment is usually not managed by the employers. Our education system is generally managed by a number of state and local governments, with some Federal participation and numerous non-government alternatives at all levels (for example, I received my undergraduate degree from a private institution, Reed College).

In theory, the educational sector should prepare people for employment in the employment sector. However, this is an extremely difficult task. There's no 1-2-3 method to prepare someone for work as a proposal writer, or even in an assembly line job. The educational sector can take you up to a certain level, but then the employer needs to provide some level of on-the-job training. This is true for any position - I bet that when Leo Apotheker reported for his first day of work at Hewlett-Packard, he received some extensive on-the-job training in the HP way (presumably, considering the circumstances of his predecessor's resignation, including some training on sexual harrassment).

But society is not perfect, as this story demonstrates:

Bill Begal says he has spent almost $2,000 since March on help-wanted ads in newspapers, websites and state employment services up and down the East Coast to find sales and administrative staff for his Rockville, Md.-based disaster-cleanup company.

"I want people to come out and work for me," said Begal, 42, whose teams responded to hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, which struck New Orleans and Florida in 2005. "Where are they? I just don't see it."...

Begal, founder of Begal Enterprises Inc., is among a half dozen entrepreneurs who said during interviews that they are having a hard time landing new employees in the Washington, D.C., area....

Some candidates lack the "right set of skills"; others fail to meet the "most basic of qualifications," such as proper spelling on their applications, the business owners said.

[Screen shot from Cityville. Zynga must have the same problem.]

More here.

From the point of view of the employers, it's the education system that's at fault here. The education system should be producing people who can spell, with the right set of skills, at no cost to the employers. Regarding poor spelling, employers may have a point.

Concentrating on the "right set of skills" issue, however, this is difficult to achieve. Let's say that the 2011 job market demands people who can work in the disaster recovery industry. Assuming that this need can be met solely by retooling colleges (with no need to retool secondary school curriculum), qualified applicants could be produced by the educational system by 2015. By that time, however, the job market may be completely different.

So is there a solution to this? If there is, what is the solution?
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