Disconnect between unemployment and needed workplace skills remains
By Leanne Hoagland-Smith September 22, 2012 9:00PM
Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 22, 2012 9:00PM
For more than 20 years as a manager and now an organizational consultant, I have continued to observe the obvious disconnect between the needed workplace skills and the pool of available workers. In July, the Indiana Business Council released a report about the perception of skills of college graduates and the current workforce by business professionals.
This report showed a poor perception by business as demonstrated through these results:
• 39 percent feel college graduates can use the skills learned in the classroom
• 40 percent feel college graduates meet their expectations
• 22 percent rate the job readiness of the current workforce as excellent or very good
What this is saying from the perception of the employers or business professionals is four or less of the potential workers are ready to be hired.
Additionally, the report highlighted the top eight skills necessary for on-the-job or career success. The report also indicated by employers the preparedness perception of college graduates and the current employed workforce:
1. Critical thinking/problem solving at 25 percent and 25 percent
2. Oral communication at 25 percent and 25 percent
3. Professionalism/work ethic at 18 percent and 38 percent
4. Serving all clients/customers at 18 percent and 47 percent
5. Reading comprehension at 31 percent and 30 percent
6. English Language at 41 percent and 48 percent
7. Teamwork/collaboration at 29 percent and 39 percent
8. Written communication at 18 percent and 20 percent
When examining these perceptions, it appears the growth between college graduates and the current employed workforce is due to on the job experience including employer training. What is interesting to note is the five (5) skills that being critical thinking, oral communication, reading, English language and written communication are all associated with the K-16 educational experience.
A report released by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (IDWD) last fall highlighted reading comprehension to be at 100 percent necessary. When reviewing the above results, the unasked question is “Why are we graduating high school and college students without the ability to read at the necessary workplace level?
These results are similar to another recent report released by Michigan State University entitled “Recruiting Trends for 2010-2011.” The data from this extensive survey suggested college students are less prepared specific to:
• Professional maturity
• Professional demeanor
• Articulate skills and competencies
An earlier “Recruiting Trends” report in 2001-2002 identified these gaps:
• Leadership - problem solving, take charge
• Interpersonal Abilities - team player, goals
• Personal Qualities - work ethics, attitude
• Teamwork - collaboration, value diversity
• Communication - listening, verbal, non-verbal
• Computing Skills - identify basic programs
In 2000, Carol DiAmico (at that time with the Hudson Institute) released an extensive report entitled “Workforce 2020” and reviewed the critical traits sought by employers:
• Leadership - 73 percent
• Problem solving skills - 69 percent
• Work ethics - 68 percent
• Job specific skills - 61 percent
• Creativity - 60 percent
• Organizational skills - 49 percent
• Interpersonal skills - 45 percent
Another workforce and education report by David Thornburg, “The New Basics: Education and the Future of Work in the Telematic Age,” confirmed research by the CEO Forum and North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) of these necessary 21st Century workplace skills:
• Digital-age literacy
• Inventive thinking
• Effective communication
• High productivity
When we begin to integrate this data and look at unemployment, possibly it may make more sense to close the gaps between the needs and expectations of employers and what schools are providing.
The state of Indiana through its Workforce Department has launched “Ready Indiana” to address some of these gaps. However, to meet the productivity necessary in the 21st Century and to fill some of those current open jobs will require far more diligence by all citizens including parents, those currently employed, employers and educational organizations from K-16.
A special request by Leanne Hoagland-Smith: In September all columns focused on this topic of workforce and unemployment to allow for additional insight. As a reader did you find this more valuable? The purpose of this question is I am considering aligning future columns on a monthly basis around one key business topic. Your feedback is important to me. So please comment here with your thoughts; through other social media sites or just email me. Thanking you in advance.
P.S. Shout Out – Two local organizations seeking to improve workforce skills are the IBEW located in Merrillville and the Construction Advancement Foundation in Portagte.
Indiana Business Council
Michigan State Recruiting Trends