Home > Uncategorized > This Just In: the Skills Gap is Overstated; the Solution is Not Easy, Cheap, or Fast

This Just In: the Skills Gap is Overstated; the Solution is Not Easy, Cheap, or Fast

August 17, 2016

An article by Phil Ciciora in Phys.Org reports that a study by University of Illinois economist Andrew Weaver finds that the report of a “skills gap” in the US manufacturing arena is overstated. What the article doesn’t say is that the “skills gap” itself may be manufactured by those who want to demonize publicly funded schools (see post from earlier today). Here’s Weaver’s quote about the supposed “skills gap”:

Three-quarters of U.S. manufacturing plants show no sign of hiring difficulties for open positions, says new research from Andrew Weaver, a professor of labor and employment relations at Illinois.

“Not a week goes by without someone declaring that a huge skills gap exists in the U.S. workforce,” he said. “A lot of ink has been spilled on this topic, but it’s frequently without evidence. The popular sentiment encourages people to think that employers have high skill demands, but U.S. workers just aren’t up to snuff, and that’s why manufacturing work is being outsourced overseas.”

However, the results show that U.S. manufacturers are generally able to hire the skilled workers they seek.

“We estimate an upper bound of job vacancies due to a potential skills gap of 16 to 25 percent of manufacturing establishments – a finding that sharply contrasts with other surveys that have reported figures of more than 60-70 percent,” Weaver said.

Neither the researcher, Weaver, nor the journalist, Ciciora, pose the question of who benefits from the canard that a skills gap exists, but it is clear that the businesses doing the outsourcing can increase their profits by avoiding an increase in their wages to reflect the demand for high skill workers, or by outsourcing their work as opposed to working in tandem with community colleges to provide training, or by providing the training themselves. The desire to reward shareholders instead of employees leads manufacturers to suppress wages, to sub-contract to overseas venues, and to avoid any expansion of publicly funded institutions that could assist them in increasing the marginal number of employees needed to fill the supposed skills gap. Any time a corporation bemoans the lack of skilled employees journalists should ask them when the last time was they increased their compensation packages, if they have reached out to local community colleges to seek their assistance in training, and if they ever considered offering training for those jobs themselves. Those solutions all cost money and the last two take time… but all three are superior to outsourcing.


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