Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What Skills Do Employers Need?

We've heard a lot from the media about how industry can't find enough workers with specialized skills. But I was shocked to read a recent article about a conversation at a gathering of executives from major American manufacturing companies. The talk turned to how hard it is to find qualified applicants for jobs. Somebody asked, "What exactly are the skills you can't find?" I was expecting someone to say, writing computer code, operating graphics software, or other computer procedures. Not at all.

One of the executives responded to the question by saying, "To be perfectly honest ... we have a hard time finding people who can pass the drug test." Another employer said that job applicants are often so underqualified that it's difficult to find anyone who can properly answer the telephone. Other employers in the group mentioned a lack of a basic command of the English language. One executive compared the skills gap between older workers nearing retirement and younger workers just coming into the labor pool. He said, simple grammar and spelling are the top "basic skills among older workers that are not present in younger job applicants." One survey that was published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that the top "applied" skill that younger job applicants lack is just simply what is called the "work ethic." That means workers who reliably arrive for work on time, ready to do a day's work. These are referred to as "soft skills" and they used to be taken for granted among job applicants, but now they seem to be rare. Maybe these deficiencies are the result of a defective school system, maybe to the breakdown of the family union, maybe to too much TV and video games. Nobody has effectively answered these question. But we should face up to the nature of the problem facing many of our young people who can't find jobs today.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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