Monday, July 11, 2011

Skill mismatch

I made a series of blog posts on skill mismatch (here, here, here, and here) which discussed whether skill is equivalent to the level of education and if not, what can be considered as skills. Here’s the closest definition of skill mismatch that I’ve come across which points to the source of skill mismatch as possibly too many college and high school graduates with very general skills and perhaps not enough of those with vocational/technical skills (emphasis mine):

Pushing all young people toward a bachelor’s degree could be misguided, some employers say, depriving certain industries of much-needed future workers. “I think there is a stigma in society that says if you don’t get a four-year degree you have not achieved,” said Matthew Edwards, manager of human resources at Machine Specialties in Whitsett, N.C., which makes precision parts for the aerospace and defense industries and is desperate to hire 10 new machinists. “And I don’t think that is true. There are not enough technical people in the workforce for us to grow.”

Others question whether the skills shortage is simply a matter of employers not paying enough for qualified workers. In fact, the skills that employers most frequently say are in shortest supply are critical thinking, the ability to work in teams and communication, not specialized training.

“Our clients tell us ‘I’ve found somebody who is an electrician or a technician, but they don’t have a global mindset or can’t work with people in different cultures,’ ” said Mara E. Swan, executive vice president for global strategy and talent at ManpowerGroup, a job placement firm. “ ‘They can’t think beyond what I tell them to do.’ ”

Even as experts debate how to teach such intangible skills, more jobs demand much higher math and reading proficiency than in the past.

Yet many young people are not able to compete for these jobs. Nearly two-thirds of students who enter a community college within a few years of high school graduation require remedial math and reading classes, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

Students who have a hard time grasping academic concepts in a traditional lecture or textbook may learn better in a practical, hands-on setting.

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