Some people are arguing that there is a shortage of American workers with critical technological expertise. Others disagree, saying that the problem isn’t a lack of skilled workers, but rather there aren’t enough companies willing to properly compensate the workers with a high level of skills. However, the key part of this issue is that companies have demonstrated that they are largely unwilling to train new workers.
There’s obviously some sort of problem, as the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology for the Obama administration has predicted that there will be a shortage of one million technological experts by the year 2020. Currently, 90% of all executives say that they are struggling to recruit and retain important workers in technology.
Still, these complaints could be based on the simple fact that they are failing to attract top-level talent. People with a high level of technological expertise are in constant demand by employers. Having this leverage allows workers to appropriately market their services. These workers will seek jobs with the highest salaries, the best job cultures and the most meaningful work. This has resulted in a “talent war” in which employers are fighting over a limited supply of highly skilled workers.
Additionally, this has also caused problems for less skilled workers. Employers are demanding that new recruits step up and contribute immediately. They don’t want employees who need time to learn and develop their skills. As a result, some people with a high level of potential are being forced to settle for less than desirable jobs.
This has led to somewhat of a problem. Unless a person obtains a degree from a top college, thereby proving that they have a much-needed skill set, they will often be ignored by top companies. People with a skill set that still needs to be developed will often be passed over by employers. This is because companies don’t want to invest time and money in developing new talent.
However, most colleges state that their role is to educate students, not to train future workers. A student can perform excellently in college and learn a great deal of knowledge, but it won’t necessarily give them everything they need to immediately contribute to an employer. The student still needs some training, and that is where companies are falling short.
The fact is, not many future workers are ready to contribute right away. They need time to grow and learn the needed skills. But since companies are often unwilling to train, this has resulted in employers refusing to take the blame. Instead, they just complain about a “lack of talent”.
Some companies are trying to solve this problem with internships. However, this is largely failing because interns are rarely given assignments that legitimately prepare them for the job. Interns often get stuck with remedial tasks, and they don’t learn the skills that they need. Furthermore, since many internships are unpaid, students who don’t have savings often have to decline internships and instead work traditional jobs where they can earn a paycheck.
Many jobs take years, or even decades, for a person to master the craft. For example, becoming proficient in the development of software often takes five to ten years. There simply isn’t enough time in college to learn these skills. And training on the job is costly and inefficient. It’s just not easy on either end for a person to gain this expertise. But still, colleges cannot be expected to develop workers on their own. Employers need to have some skin in the game and start training the experts of the future.
For now, the only thing that companies are doing is fighting over the best workers that have already been developed rather than trying to create new ones. Of course, this won’t solve anything. So until companies are willing to help develop tomorrow’s next engineer or tomorrow’s next software developer, there will be a “shortage” of skilled technological workers.