A January 16, 2018 article in USA Today reports that tightening labor markets have “provided a financial boon to many full-time employees, who are notching lots of overtime…”
In the January 18, 2018 episode of NPR’s The Indicator from Planet Money podcast, called “The Beigies,” was a story about a manufacturing company in the northeast US, originally published in the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book.
"Another industrial firm had 20 unfilled openings in a plant with 100 employees and said they were making up for it with significant overtime. When asked why they didn’t increase wages to fill the openings, the contact said they would have to pay all the existing workers more which would be uneconomic."
Skills Gap Assessment and Closure
Manufacturers possess everything needed to close the skills gap within their organizations. Though outsiders may speculate, a company’s current situation and future plans are only known, with any accuracy, by the managers, directors, and advisors of that company. How a manufacturing site’s local environment, corporate objectives, industry, technology and market trends, and other factors will influence the business in the foreseeable future can only be assessed effectively from within. It is this “inside information” that is critical to the creation of a workforce development plan that will meet the company’s current and future needs.
Indicative of its importance, the first four steps in the process outlined below involve the collection and analysis of information. Information from various sources must be cross-referenced to ensure the most accurate characterization of the company possible. In the fifth step, methods for visualizing the skills gap are discussed, concluding the assessment. Planning and closure of the skills gap occur in the final two steps.
Local Solutions to a National Problem
Public policy can change course with each election. The lack of stability creates a great deal of uncertainty for companies that rely on it to execute certain strategies. Closing the “skills gap” – considered by many to be the most pressing issue facing manufacturers – need not be subject to the volatility of political and bureaucratic wind-shifting. The examples below demonstrate how businesses can disentangle their training needs from public policy debates and create the skills inventory needed in their workforce.
How the Skills Gap Grows
Several months ago, when I first considered writing about this topic, mainstream media, trade press, and social media were all bursting with articles and anecdotes about the impending collapse of our economy caused by a widening “skills gap” in our workforce. Reports have since begun to trickle out that foster a modicum of restrained optimism; however, the public discourse on the topic continues to, largely, fail to present (or actively avoid – you decide) the big picture.
Discussions of the “skills gap” tend to focus on manufacturing industries; in the interest of continuity, I will follow that trend. It should be noted, however, that many of the issues raised are equally relevant to service industries.
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