Despite the fact the US unemployment rate has hovered around 9.0 percent for the past several years and over 200,000 pharmaceutical employees have lost their jobs since 2001, many life sciences executives contend that they cannot find qualified employees to fill job openings at their companies. Most executives blame the US education system for not providing prospective employees with necessary training and immigration laws that prevent companies from hiring highly-skilled foreign workers. According to a recent survey conducted by the staffing company ManpowerGroup, over 52% of US employers that they have difficulty filling open positions because of talent shortages. Some other revealing statistics about employer’s attitudes include:
- 47% of employers blame job candidates’ lack of hard job or technical skills for their inability to hire
- 35% of companies cite job candidates’ lack of experience as a reason not to hire
- 25% blame lack of business knowledge or formal educational qualification as a deterrent to hiring
While a majority of US corporate executives may believe this, the reality is that employers simply cannot find employees to accept jobs at the wages that they are willing to offer! In other words, there is a plethora of skilled American workers out there; but many US employers are willing to outsource or hire skilled foreign nationals who frequently work for lower wages than most Americans. Further, American employers are unwilling to spend money to train college graduates or re-train existing employees who may be able to step into these so-called difficult-to-fill positions. This may help to explain why an increasing number of students are willing to accept unpaid internships or, in some cases pay to work at companies for free to garner valuable industrial experience which may ultimately lead to a job.
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, offered three possible solutions to the current American unemployment conundrum
Work with education providers
If job candidates lack the skills or qualifications to do certain jobs, companies ought to make them go to school to acquire them. To that end, a growing number of community colleges in North Carolina and New Jersey have partnered with prospective employers to develop courses or degree programs tailored to meet their employment needs. For example, about 10 years ago my local community college (Mercer County College) developed a program (in a partnership with the clinical research company Covance) to train students interested in becoming clinical research assistants and managers. Not surprisingly, many of the students enrolled in the program ultimately where hired by Covance.
In another variation of this model, extant employees, who may be interested in advancing their cares, would be able take classes at local community colleges (in off hours) and have their tuition subsidized via company tuition reimbursement programs. This would help to obviate the high costs and inordinate amount of time typically required to hire external candidates for newly created positions.
Reintroduce on-the-job training programs
Back in the day, companies tended to hire persons who were the brightest, most talented and most likely to benefit an organization. New hires were required to participate in internal training programs so that they would better understand their positions and allow management to best evaluate new talent. Generally speaking, this allowed most companies to operate more efficiently; mainly because this allowed managers to determine the best fit of new hires into the existing corporate structure. Sadly this is no longer the case at most companies. These days, companies tend to hire worker who possess the technical skills and qualifications to do a certain job and are expected to “hit the ground running” Put simply, short term needs are placed before the long term needs and future success of an organization.
Promote from within
According to data from the talent management company Taleo Corp., in recent years a surprising two-thirds of job vacancies, even in larger companies, have been filled by outside hires. While it may be cheaper to hiring from the outside, the loss of experienced workers and historical corporate knowledge may affect a company’s performance and ultimately its bottom line.
While the US economy is beginning to show signs that it is beginning to recover, I believe that surest way to prosperity is to put Americans back to work. Although this may require a substantial financial investment by US corporations, we simply can no longer rely on outsourcing or a cheaper immigrant workforce to allow American to continue to compete on the world stage.
Until next time…
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!