The Skills Gap?

The Skill Gap Exposed In One Simple Chart—My Critique

 

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The original essay was written By Paul Petrone

September 19, 2016

I have spent much of the past 20 years looking for jobs, a huge majority of these STEM jobs, in software and electronics. So, I do have some practical experience with the job market and employers.

Paul Petrone wrote, “Starting in 2015, an unprecedented yet persistent phenomenon has sprung up in the United States – for the past 18 months or so, there have been more unfilled job openings than there have been actual people hired in the US.”

There have always been open jobs and there always will be. Even back in the 1990s IBM always had about 300 open jobs (I think that that was locally) because every time they would fill one another one would open up.

But to jump to the conclusion that a skills gap exists because of this is non sequitur. The problem with this is the statistics do not specify what jobs are open. And an even bigger mistake is assume that any training short of the companies themselves do the training is wrong. This I agree with the author. Still, many think that schools can train them! I will have more on this later.

People looking at this graph wrongly assume that they are high tech jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics project, that all jobs between 2012-2022 (and 2008-2018 before now so it has not changed), 27% will require a college degree and the same percentage, 27%, will require less than a high school diploma or high school dropouts. Ironic how that works out, is it not?

Now that 27% of college graduates are broken down thusly, 4% Associate’s degree, 18% Bachelor’s, 2% Master’s degree, and 3% PhDs. We have gluts of all of these graduates and yet the powers that be want even more. Why? That is the subject I covered in other essays. The only one we are short of is high school dropouts. Many of these jobs are being filled by college graduates. This is one reason why the unemployment rate for high school dropouts is so high and college graduates are so low. The college graduates are taking the jobs that high school dropout should be getting.

Another way to say this is that 66% of all jobs will require a high school diploma or less. Many of the jobs that require a high school diploma really do not. The single biggest employer of high school graduates is the US Military enlisted people. They say because of all the high tech weaponry that more education is needed. This could not be farther from the truth. The education is not needed to operate them. A trained monkey could point and click or push a button to launch a missile. Computers have made our jobs easier or so they say. It does not take a computer scientist to operate a computer any more than it takes a mechanical engineer to operate a car.

Granted more education is needed to maintain them but what percentage of the Armed Forces is in maintenance? Way less than half, I’d imagine? At least I hope so. They will train them anyway.

Also, fully 1/3 of all Computer Science graduates will never get a software job. This is the single biggest part of STEM and really the only shortage we’ve had in STEM back the 1960s-1980s. We have had no shortage of STEM since at least 1990.

Paul Petrone stated, “My belief as an economist is that it has to do with a shift away from more routine jobs, to those that require more judgment,” Chamberlain told The Post. “Those jobs are harder to screen for, and more costly if you make a mistake hiring for them.”

I am fairly certain that there were not 5 million new jobs added last month. In the month of July only 255,000 jobs were added. And that is almost double the normal of about 150,000 jobs added per month. These jobs may not even keep up with legal immigrants coming here.

Paul Petrone posited, “It also highlights the economic effects of the skill gap. If those 5.7 million job openings were filled, the unemployment rate would drop from 4.9 percent to 1.29 percent, which would be the lowest non-wartime unemployment rate in American history.”

The actual unemployment rate is closer to 25% and not 5% and I mean across the board, not just black males. There are 102 million Americans, ages 18-65, which are not working at all. This is almost 10 times the number of unemployed at height of the Great Depression (about 12 million then). Some of these are college graduates.

The government cooks the books.

Yet, what does big business want to do?  They want more H1-B visas for foreign workers to take these jobs or just ship them overseas as they have been doing since at least the 1990s.

I said I would get back to this.

And big business wants Community Colleges and high schools to train the kids for their jobs, with business/school partnerships. This is unethical to say the least. They’ve said we’re not in the business of training. Yet some companies will complain about lack of the right set of skills for their particular job.

One of the biggest impediments to getting hired is the requirement that we must have 3-5 years of experience with something in particular. This is along with a laundry list of skills that many will never have. By skills they mean experience. They need the experience in order to get the job and they need the job in order to get the experience. This is a catch-22 situation.

To get 3-5 years of experience on something else with only about 4 years of experience at what you just did is impossible. Every company will have a different setup. So, it will be impossible to have the right skills for the new job. Yet, employers continue to say 3-5 years or just 3 or 4 years, when they do not specify a range.

This 3-5 year of experience, may just be a general thing, too. You may need 3 years professional experience. This means that you need to have had a job title for which a bachelor’s degree was necessary. Even if you did some of the same things that they did as a semi-professional. It does not count. So, basically, it is just a job title and not experience that they want, in some cases. I lack 7.5 months of professional experience, even though I may have had at least 5years of professional experience over the previous 25 years on semi-professional jobs.

I have said for years that companies want you to be able to walk on water and I found a job a couple of years ago where their 15th and last requirement was literally just that — Must be able to walk on water!

What companies do not understand is skills or experience does transfer. I was turned down for job because I did not have any experience with Linux. Linux is just a freeware version of UNIX and I had 10 years of experience with 3 different Operating Systems called UNIX—TI System V UNIX, Sun Solaris UNIX, and HP-UNIX. What’s more the command line commands are 95% or more exactly the same between UNIX and Linux. This means that there is not much of a difference.

They also do not understand that it is knowledge the person must have and that can be gotten through study. Going back to my example: Even if I did have the required number of years of experience on Linux they would be different than someone else’s experience and probably different from the interviewer’s experience. Also, you can get exposed to much more and even much less things in any given time period, such as 3-5 years. It is knowledge but not time/experience. But just try to tell that to hiring people, especially when the Director of IT is in his mid-20s, still wet behind the ears. He knows his system but nothing else.

According to the World Economic Forum there will be a net loss of jobs in 14 of the largest economies in the world, of just over 1 million jobs per year over the next 5 years. So, I find it a little hard to believe that there is a lot jobs, especially, high-tech jobs, open. Even if there are then they are contract jobs, with low pay and no benefits and will last only 4 years or perhaps less, on average.

Also, companies and recruiters will post jobs just to see who’s out there and available just in case an opening comes. They are not real jobs. So, I have to wonder how many of these so-called jobs are being counted as actual openings. This has been happening for a number of years now.

Paul Petrone stated, “Another indication of the skill gap – sloooow hiring.”

Slow hiring could be because of all of the people applying for jobs and because of the uncertainties that Washington places on businesses, with new anti- business friendly laws, from Democrats.

Paul Petrone summed up, “Combining the two aforementioned data points, it’s evident the job openings in America are increasingly for high-skill jobs. And there are not enough people in the American economy who have the skills necessary to fill them.”

So while I do agree with the companies doing their own training, as I have said for about 20 years, I do not agree with a massive skills gap, unless it is fault of businesses in the first place. Businesses should have been training their own people over the past 25 years or so. Every company wants someone who can hit the floor running. They do not want someone who can learn the job, even relatively quickly. As I have said your experience is irrelevant. It is different than the experience you will get on the new job, assuming that you do get the job.

I don’t agree with using that graph and slow hiring as proof that skills gaps are the reason for them. These are what I find as non sequitur. There are several other reasons just as likely to cause these two effects, such as they are.

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