Have we all been suckered in by that jobs-skills mismatch argument?

business

In the past year or so I’ve written and reposted a number of articles on the supposed jobs-skills mismatch in Minnesota (and America overall), and some questions have slowly started to nag me.

Among them:

  • How can it really be that despite all of our top-flight educational resources there’s a mismatch — and that it’s the education sector’s fault?
  • Why do the laws of supply and demand magically fail to work in this sector of the labor force? If wages and salaries were increased, wouldn’t the job candidates come calling?
  • Why is it suddenly the government’s job to provide job- and vocational training for business after high school? Why don’t businesses do it themselves, as they used to decades ago through apprenticeships, internships and such?
  • Are businesses willing to invest in the solution if government is?
  • If such training (or a two-year degree) is now the minimum requirement for the 21st-century labor force, why don’t we make it free? A high school degree used to be the minimum, and we’ve funded that. Should we expand our concept of mandatory education?

I can’t say that what I’ve been hearing and reading is bogus, but so many elements seem a bit suspect.

Now one On Campus reader has sent me a column/blog from the Columbia Journalism Review (of all publications) that essentially says the news media (including me?) have all been hoodwinked by the corporate types.

(It calls the “can’t find workers” complaint a “meme”, which is more or less a running theme or joke that’s making its way through the Internet.)

The post cites a guest who was on MPR’s Nov. 30 Midmorning program on why employers can’t find job candidates: Wharton School of Business professor Peter Cappelli.

The main message gleaned from the blog, Cappelli’s piece and a related blog entry:

We news media have taken at face value the assertions that there’s some new education-related mismatch between jobs and skills. There’s simply no proof that it exists or that the education sector is at fault, and signs instead indicated that businesses are simply unwilling to train people the way they used to.

The blog sums it up:

Letting companies complain that there’s no reserve supply of labor when they need it amidst mass unemployment is a bit much. If you need the perfect fit, you’d better be prepared to pay that prospective employee or to train him or her.

Read the full post here (it has links to other pieces) and Cappelli’s article here.