Why skilled workers will own the future

Never before has keeping the right people and finding them been as high on the agendas of great companies as it is today. 

What's the Big Idea?


In our current atmosphere of high unemployment there are many factors that have prevented companies from growing faster and adding jobs. But one area that has not received nearly as much attention is the labor shortage when it comes to skilled workers. Recruiters simply can't fill these job vacancies. In industries such as manufacturing this problem is particularly pronounced, as the older work force that possessed the right skills is retiring, while the younger generation has shunned careers in this sector. After all, the outlook for manufacturing was quite gloomy for a long time.

While H-1B visas have allowed an influx of highly skilled immigrants in the technology sector, that is still not enough to meet labor demands. In fact, a recent survey found that 83 percent of manufacturers reported a moderate or severe shortage of skilled production workers to hire. The problem is also found across many other sectors of the economy, from energy to aerospace to consumer products and technology.

"There is a huge mismatch between the jobs that are available and the workers that are out there," says Patricia Milligan, president of human capital at Mercer. Milligan says the workers with the right skills need to be considered "a pretty critical asset" to businesses, and the task of keeping them engaged needs to be "one of the single most important thing that leaders and managers focus on."

What's the Significance?

According to Milligan, "never before has keeping the right people and finding them been as high on the agendas of great companies as it is today." So what are successful companies doing to engage and retain these key assets? Milligan points to "world-class companies" who are working with academic institutions to more rigorously evaluate curriculums.

Many of the "skills" that are currently being taught are what could be called "transitory" because the jobs themselves are being transformed or replaced by automated technological processes. More dynamic curriculums are needed to keep up with the pace of change if we hope to train the work force for the jobs that will exist in the future.

When you look at the global picture, the demographics, the birth rates and replacement ratios in the workforce, Milligan sees a "skilled workers' world," and they will have the power. "There's no question that the workers with the right skills around the world are going to own their own futures," she says, "and we want to compete for those workers."

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @DanielHonan

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