The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that although nearly 12 million U.S. workers are unemployed, businesses report nearly four million open jobs—jobs that cannot be filled by previously displaced workers because of gaps in skills.
Companies often complain they aren’t getting graduates with the skills they need. Why is that—and what should be done about it?
Written by Eric Spiegel via the Wall Street Journal’s blog, The Experts
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that although nearly 12 million U.S. workers are unemployed, businesses report nearly four million open jobs—jobs that cannot be filled by previously displaced workers because of gaps in skills. There is clearly a mismatch between the education and skills that many Americans have and what employers need. At a time when American industry is struggling to fill these open positions, it is common to say that we have a skills gap. But in truth, it’s not just a skills gap–it’s a training gap.
If we want to fix this, we need to put the onus on those who train, rather than those who need to be trained. A recent OECD study that evaluated work-based skills taught in schools in 29 countries found that the U.S. ranks dead last. Wharton School professor Peter Cappelli found that in 1979, young U.S. workers received an average of 2.5 weeks of training per year. By 1995, studies found that the average company offered just under 11 hours per year. By 2011, Accenture found that only 21% of all U.S. employees had received any employer-provided training in the past five years. In other words, 80% of today’s workforce is working jobs with little to no instruction since before the iPhone was invented!
In order to ensure that students graduate with the skills needed for the jobs that exist, companies need to work with the education system, government and labor. These public-private partnerships are critical because they allow for the marriage of supply and demand. Businesses can communicate their immediate and anticipated needs so that educational institutions can develop programs to train students for the necessary skills. At Siemens, we are bringing the centuries-old concept of apprenticeships, based on the German model, to America. These apprentices are paid to work while in school, receive a diploma and a skills certificate, and upon completion a job that can lead to a long-term career. This is one way to ensure that workers are trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Eric Spiegel (@ericspiegel) is the president and CEO of Siemens USA and the author of the 2009 book “Energy Shift: Game-changing Options for Fueling the Future.”