Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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Defining the Skills Gap - Part One
By Barbara Bray    April 18, 2010 -- 07:36 AM

Employment figures are rising this month. In March the payroll jobs increased by 162,000. The Dow topped 11,000. This is showing that the recovery is actually happening. However, the recovery is going to be slow not only because businesses are just starting to get back on their feet, credit is still tight for businesses, and one big factor many are just starting to realize: employers are saying that the employees they need are not available.

Tapan Munroe wrote:

Manpower Inc.ís 2009 worldwide talent survey involving 39,000 employers in 39 countries concluded that nearly one-third of the employers were experiencing difficulty in filling the vacant jobs. This comes out to about 2 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. and nearly 2.3 million vacancies in the European Union. []

Most of the jobs where there is a need is in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) related jobs. According to Munroe, the skills gap is caused by:
  1. Technology is changing so fast with the elimination of low-skill jobs.
  2. Baby Boomers (over 80 million) will be retiring soon with only 40 million Generation Xers to replace them.
  3. Globalization had the U.S. outsource almost 6 million low-skill jobs from 2000-2009. China eliminated 20 million low-skill jobs. Skilled and educated workers from other countries are returning to their countries because of higher wages.  Nearly 200,000 Chinese workers have returned to China. Even Germany and Japan are experiencing a skills gap in STEM with over 75,000 vacancies. 
This is the time for the U.S. to rethink how they educate, hire, and possibly rehire their workers. What if...
  • middle and high schools identify talented students with STEM skills and provides mentors to help them find and get into the college of their choice? 
  • more universities receive funding and support to increase their STEM departments?
  • the U.S. provides increase financial incentives for retired and the unemployed to return for STEM training? and helps with job placement?
  • the U.S. creates well-funded scholarships for talented teachers to be retrained as STEM teachers?
  • the U.S. identifies businesses that support STEM training that supplements universities?
  • U.S. companies stop using H1B visas or outsourcing work to other countries.
  • companies look at valuing and hiring from our talented pool of technical workers that are unemployed in their own country (U.S., UK, Australia).
  • universities pulled from the unemployed technical workers in their own country to be paid mentors for students.
  • companies and universities need to value real experience of 55+ year old technical workers who may or may not have a degree.
Even though we may look at new ways of hiring, training and keeping people in their jobs, providing support for universities, providing incentives to businesses, we need to define the characteristics and availability of qualified STEM workers that businesses want to hire. These STEM workers need more than a focus on science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Additional skills they need include:
  • ability to work collaboratively in a team
  • critical thinking skills
  • be okay about failing and taking risks
  • being creative and curious
  • focusing on real-world problems
  • seeing the big picture while working on focused projects

There are people right now who can fill these jobs: unemployed tech workers.

The skills gap is being misrepresented by companies. What are the real numbers of technical workers? If a company can hire someone at $25/hour instead of over $75/hour, they can save money and control the bottom line. Unfortunately, many of the workers they hired at lower rates have changed the culture of business. Many of these talented people who were our middle class now are collecting unemployment, losing their homes, and trying to save shattered lives and relationships.

Without a middle class and people ready to work, live, and be an active consumer, our economy will continue to struggle. Itís time to look at the bigger picture...

Defining the Skills Gap - Part Two

Categories: "Skills" "Training" "Stem" "Mathematics" "Engineering" "Technology" "Science" "Future" "Change"

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