Why Companies REALLY Can’t Find the Employees They Need, Part 3
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Editor’s Note: This post by Cheryl Oldham originally appeared in ChamberPost, the official blog of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Institute for a Competitive Workforce’s (ICW) Cheryl Oldham has taken issue with Dr. Peter Cappelli’s recent column in the Wall Street Journal in which he argues that the American business community is partially to blame for the country’s unskilled workforce. This three part blog series by Mrs. Oldham argues that Dr. Cappelli’s theory is short sighted, and that it is the nation’s mediocre educational system that is the primary reason for the skills gap. (Part 2 of 3)
In my two previous posts, I’ve dug into two of Dr. Peter Cappelli’s arguments that blame businesses for their inability to find qualified workers. Today, I’ll address his comparison of the American educational system to that of Germany and Switzerland.
This argument is his most confusing one. He began the column by delegitimizing complaints by the business community that the American education system is failing to produce quality workers. Now, he claims that countries such as Germany and Switzerland do a better job at mandating training for workers, and as such, aren’t experiencing the same sort of skills shortages that American companies are. Leaving aside the fact the he first claimed that we have no skills shortage; it is true that Germany in particular has a much more robust workforce training and career technical education system than we do. As a result, they have a lesser skills gap than the one that exists in the United States, manifesting itself in a national unemployment rate that’s more than 2% lower than ours. Our government estimates that there are approximately 3.2 million jobs that continue to go unfilled due to this skills gap. Uncoincidentally, filling each of those jobs would reduce our unemployment rate by around 2%.
However, Germans also start their workforce training from a higher academic level. They continually outscore American students on eighth-grade educational benchmarks in math and science. They graduate from secondary and tertiary education at higher rates than American students. And their academic standards are generally higher than ours.
All of which brings us back to the original thesis of the column—that the business community is creating our skills shortage, not our education system. If the problem were as simple as tweaking some hiring practices and increasing workplace training, it would be done by now. It’s not that easy, however, and one need only look at the remediation rates at community colleges across the country to figure out why. Too many of our children are leaving high school without the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college or the workforce. Too few of them are advancing to some kind—any kind—of postsecondary education. And our workforce development system is simply ill equipped to cover up these shortcomings. Can companies do a better job at figuring out how to get the most out of the talent available? Absolutely, but that concept should not be mutually exclusive with the notion that we need to give them more talent to work with in the first place.
Read more from ChamberPost, the official blog of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.