Wednesday, August 11, 2010

These People are Seriously Confused

Deborah Gist:

RT @angusdav: Unemployment to persist because "U.S. education system hasn't been producing enough people with ... skills"

First off, the whole quote is:

...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.

So, our Commissioner of Education and a member of our Board of Regents think that our education system should be turning out people with highly specialized skills needed by manufacturing companies? Never mind that in this context "productivity gains" also means "fewer total workers?"

That's a switch. I thought we were sending everyone to college.

Anyway, let's look at the examples in the article:

  • Flying J Truck stop is having trouble finding food servers. Not a skilled job.
  • Mechanical Devices machine shop can't find enough skilled high-tech machinists willing to work as temps for $13 an hour, or $26,000 a year. This is a job that requires 10 weeks training.
  • Emirates airline gets fewer people at its job fair than it would like for jobs that pay $30,000 and are based in Dubai. This is not considered a skilled job.
  • Apex Companies got five qualified applicants for an "industrial hygienist" supervisory job which requires specialized training, is dirty and dangerous, and pays $47,000 a year. This is not actually a problem.
  • The Mower Shop in Fishers, Ind. is having trouble finding someone to do repair piece work that might pay $40,000 if you're fast, and they've got enough broken mowers to keep you busy all year. I couldn't do it, but I don't think this is a "skilled" job in the technical sense.

They also point out that one former truck driver dropped out of a training program for the machine shop job because he found another job that required less training. Both his former and current jobs paid over $20,000 more a year than the machine shop, practically twice as much.

What is the point of having a "skilled" job if it pays the same or less than an "unskilled" one?


Companies offering middle-skilled jobs can be flooded with applicants. Laquita Stribling, a senior area vice president in Nashville for staffing firm Randstad, says she received several hundred applications for a branch manager job that might have attracted a few dozen candidates before the recession.

"The talent pool has swollen to the point where it's almost overwhelming," says Ms. Stribling.

This is simply not an educational issue. Companies are not offering high enough pay to attract workers whose mobility is restricted because of the housing crisis to specialized but low-skill jobs. The "middle skill" jobs that most upwardly mobile disadvantaged students would use to move up the ladder are hopelessly glutted for the moment.

1 comment:

Claus von Zastrow said...

I'm a big proponent of equal opportunity for college, which is not exactly the current state of affairs. It worries me that income level remains the main sorting mechanism for college.

That said, the notion that sending everyone to college will somehow banish inequity or even economic hardship is hard to swallow. Will low-paying jobs simply go away? So no one will have to clean bathrooms anymore? No one will have to be a hospital orderly anymore?

The reality is that our economy as currently constituted depends on jobs that currently pay peanuts and get little respect. Higher ed. is important, but those jobs will not go away. Will the market erase the inequities if schools manage to do so?