Career Corner: A Monthly Executive Search Firm News Article Series.
Falling Behind in the Race for Talent
December 1st, 2009
With unemployment on the rise and the economy in the gutter, many people are left waiting in line when it comes to finding a job. According to the Federal Reserve Bank, the U.S. unemployment rate, of about 9.5 percent, is only expected to get worse in the year ahead. Many people are wondering why they cannot find a job, and the answer for most is because there just aren’t enough jobs out there to satisfy the demand. Is this really the problem or could there be another culprit that is helping to spark such high levels of unemployment?
According to a survey that was conducted by the firm Manpower, the unemployment rate in early 2008 was about 5.6 percent, while the job market had around three million unfilled positions. When people hear a statistic like this, they generally believe that most of these jobs rest somewhere in the fast food industry, or another unskilled section of the market. The truth is that most of these were very competitive jobs that required a few years of college experience or a previous apprenticeship in order for a candidate to qualify. Now in 2009, the same survey showed around nine percent unemployment and again three million jobs left unfilled. With results like these only one conclusion can be drawn, that the talent required to fill these positions cannot be found in the population of the American unemployed. Many new job seekers just do not have the talent and skills that are required to fill many of the modern jobs.
In order to fix this lack of talent, in the current American working population, the source of the problem needs to be addressed. The American education system has a huge influence on the level of talent in the workforce and currently it just isn’t getting the job done. The issue is not the idea that many people believe, which is that the education system isn’t as strong as it was fifty years ago. The real issue is that the American education system has not grown to develop students in specialized fields such as math, science, and engineering as quickly as the needs for these sectors are arising. As a percentage of the American population as a whole, there are relatively fewer candidates with a specialized degree in one of the previous three disciplines when compared to the same statistic during the Cold War Era of the 50s and 60s. This is in part due to the fact that the government put a lot of emphasis on making sure that people were educated in these fields, because of the space race and other events that were taking place during this period of time. This information became very evident for Advanced Micro Devices when they decided to find a location for a new plant that they were planning to build.
When Advanced Micro Devices wanted to build a new plant in the late 1990s they thought about locating the plant in Silicon Valley, where they are headquartered. While trying to recruit the proper talent to fill all of the positions that this plant was going to create, they ran into a huge problem. Most of the necessary talent located in this area was already employed with other companies. They ran across the same problem after trying to locate the plant in Austin, Texas, and AMD finally ended up building the plant in Dresden, Germany. This simple example magnifies the conclusion that the educational system of the United States is behind the times, while other countries, like Germany, are prepared to provide their populations with the necessary skills for jobs of the future.
This issue does not even touch on the fact that many students do not make it far enough in the education system in order to have a choice whether or not they want to pursue a degree in a specialized subject. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education only about 70 percent of high school students end up receiving their diplomas. This is an alarming statistic, that three out of every ten kids enrolled in preschool and elementary school today will not follow through and receive their high school diplomas. Something needs to be done to prepare these students for the future, especially since the demand for lower skill level jobs is so high and the supply for these jobs is beginning to dwindle as many of them are outsourced overseas.
In order to curb this trend, something needs to be done beginning with the way that children are motivated to stay and excel in school. Children need to be encouraged to participate in receiving more advanced degrees, such as those in math, science, and engineering. These subjects need to be taught and stressed at a young age, so that by the time a child has the opportunity to attend college, these subjects are at the forefront of the child’s choices. This will be essential to the success of the United States in the job world, with future jobs starting to swing towards the subjects of math and science.
At some point, kids may not even have a choice as to what degree they decide to specialize in if they want to continue to have a successful career in the United States. If the education process in the United States continues on its current trend, the job market will be flooded with individuals who are only able to perform jobs of a lower skill level, while the supply of these jobs will be very low. On the other hand there will be an increase in the number of jobs for high skilled employees in the realms of math, science, and engineering, while there will not be enough people in these sectors to fill the positions available. As a result, the American population will start to see many of these potentially lucrative jobs being outsourced overseas to countries that are better equipped with the talent necessary to fill these positions. In the end, the lack of talent in the American work force may actually induce employers to get more involved in the education system. Employers are going to have to start giving their employees the training that is required, instead of relying on the school system, if they want to see the results they are looking for.