Politicians keep shouting “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” but it should be “Training, Training, Training.” If you talk to just about anyone in business management, the number one challenge they identify is the difficulty in finding and retaining qualified employees. In addition, the education system has done a very poor job in preparing students for the jobs and careers that are available.
According to the Associated General Contractors (AGC) Worker Shortage Survey, 83% of construction companies have difficulty recruiting qualified craft workers and 61% cannot find qualified construction professionals (project managers, engineers, draftsmen, etc.). The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected in 2012 that in ten years the number of construction trades workers would increase 22%. This compares to 11% for all trades, 11% for heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers. There will be some dislocation and manufacturing and production occupations will only increase by 1%.
The AGC’s Chief Economist, Ken Simonson was quoted as saying, “Construction firms across the country are having a hard time filling available positions. Considering how much the nation’s educational focus has moved away from teaching students career and technical skills during the past few decades, it is easy to understand why the construction industry is facing such severe labor shortages.”
Due to increasing automation and improvements in production processing, the manufacturing sector is only predicting a 1% increase in the total number of workers. However, in a survey of members by the National Association of Manufacturers, 69% of respondents say they have difficulty filling skilled production positions. As manufacturing plants become more automated, the required skills become more technical and workers need to be familiar with computers and programming. Machine mechanics have become mechanical engineers with far more expertise required.
One industry that affects all aspects of the economy is the trucking industry. There are currently 35,000 job openings across the country for heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers. My industry, the glass and glazing contracting, is already seeing the effects of this shortage. Transporting the raw glass sheets from the manufacturer to the fabricating and distribution centers is highly specialized. The glass is transported in large sheets 11 feet by 18 feet, bundled into four 10,000 pound blocks (stoces), on an a-frame on a low-boy trailer. The drivers are required to have a minimum number of hours driving experience and special certification. The cargo is top heavy. The route must be considered to avoid low bridges, rough rail crossings and the like to avoid stressing the load. The driver has to stop and inspect the load every 150 miles. The driver is required to inspect the customer’s rigging before unloading begins. As the economy improves, glass deliveries are falling behind and creating delays partly because of the lack of qualified truck drivers.
So, it appears to me that much of the unemployment problem is not due so much to a lack of jobs, but to some of the following:
1. Lack of technical and career training in high schools. Not everyone needs to, or should, go to college.
2. College students are getting degrees in fields not applicable to industry’s needs today.
3. Unwillingness of people to relocate to where the jobs are. Cars are built in the South by robots, not Detroit.
4. A general unwillingness of people to start and the bottom and work hard.
I will tackle the above topics in future postings, but my best advice is to get the education and training to prepare yourself for a career that can sustain you and your dependents. For future college students, one career counselor recently recommended that you get your degree in a career subject such as engineering, computer sciences, geology, chemistry or biology, then minor in business administration or education. Save the arts and social subjects for electives.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook
Katy Devlin, Glass Magazine, December 2014