Who’s to Blame for Job Skill Shortages: Employers, Workers, or Schools?

Who’s to blame for the shortage of skilled workers?

Not unlike politics, it depends who you ask. Employers blame schools. Schools blame government. Workers blame employers.

The Institute for Supply Management-New York reported this month that 20 percent of its members say the shortage of skilled labor is an obstacle to business. The National Federation of Independent Business reported a rising share of small business owners who say they have jobs that are hard to fill. A Manpower Group survey revealed that 52 percent of U.S. companies report difficulty filling jobs.

The list goes on and on.

Finger pointing job skill shortagesBut enough already with all the finger-pointing.  The truth is that no entity caused the problem and no one entity can fix it.

Let’s start with employers.  Yes – despite 8-plus percent unemployment, employers can’t find enough skilled workers. Every day another publication, another industry highlights the plight of companies struggling with unfilled positions.

Part of the problem can be laid squarely at the feet of employers.  Committed to maximize productivity, employers are expecting more from workers than ever before.  That approach makes good business sense.  But the need to fill open positions has such urgency that employers seek workers who can hit the ground running with little training and no on-boarding.  In the past, new workers were observed, mentored and brought up to speed gradually.  Today, employers expect the new hire “to have that job already,” according to Dr. Peter Cappelli, director of University of Pennsylvania Wharton’s Center for Human Resources.  He recommends that employers need to “drop the idea of finding perfect candidates and look for people who could do the job with a bit of training and practice.”

That seems to place on the blame on education.  While deserving of some of the blame, schools can’t be held responsible for all things wrong.  The nature of work has changed.  The number of available low-skilled jobs is evaporating faster than water on a hot summer day.  According to Edward Gordon, “between today and 2020, low-paying, low-skill jobs will shrink to just 26 percent of the total jobs in the U.S.   Worst of all, just 44 million people will be needed for those jobs, but 150 million or more candidates will be seeking those jobs.”

It used to be that if you worked with your hands and had a good work ethic, you had a lifelong career. But now it’s not the worker’s hands and back that does the grunt work – it’s a robot.  And workers that are needed by employers must understand how to program, operate, and repair a robot.  That requires good math skills…and good critical thinking skills… computer skills.  And it’s not just skills that are needed.  It’s the ability to apply those skills on the job.  And that requirement is a problem.

A headline this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer read “job seekers can’t do math.” That shouldn’t come as any surprise. It’s been reported for years that the high school dropout rate in the U.S. approaches 30 percent year.  Among the 33 other OECD countries, 17 countries had higher average scores than the United States.  When it comes to preparing students for future jobs requiring basic math skills, schools deservedly earn a failing grade.

But to be fair, shouldn’t employees assume some responsibility to develop and maintain job relevance?  The answer is an unequivocal Y-E-S.  Every organization has a responsibility to its stakeholders and/or shareholders to be productive and profitable. They can’t do that with employees who don’t come to work with the most basic of skills – reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s not in the best interest of business to set their job skill requirements to the lowest common denominator. That places responsibility for acquiring and continually upgrading minimum job skills on the shoulders of job seekers.  Everyone is entitled to the opportunity to work.  But entitlement doesn’t include the right to middle class wages and lifestyle when the skills they bring to work are for obsolete or lower-skill jobs.

The major workplace transformation however will be driven by technology and globalization – and working with those conditions requires new skill sets. The definition of work has changed … and will change again sooner than later. Employers, workers, and schools need to get a grip on reality and start working together to prepare for employment in the future workplace.

Perfect Labor Storm book

Why Robots are Putting Employees Out of Work … and Creating Jobs

Automation and outsourcing have been blamed for putting a lot of people out of work.  Ironically innovation is what produces wealth and creates jobs. 

Technological innovation is linked to three-quarters of the Nation’s post-WW II growth rate. Two innovation-linked factors – capital investment and increased efficiency – represent 2.5 percentage points of the 3.4% average annual growth rate achieved since the 1940’s.

In addition, innovation produces high-paying jobs. Average compensation per employee in innovation intensive sectors increased 50% between 1990 and 2007 – nearly two and one-half times the national average.

Robots and JobsUnfortunately many of the workers put out of work by innovation don’t have the education and skills to do the new jobs created and therefore don’t have access to these high-paying jobs. Instead their former jobs with middle class wages are now obsolete and can be performed by workers half-way around the world or by machines for a fraction of the cost.

The poster child for this scenario of course is manufacturing.  No industry has been hit as hard as manufacturing when it comes to technology and outsourcing.  But despite the recession, manufacturing is creating jobs. It’s just that jobs being created by automation and globalization require very different skill sets than those made obsolete by change. As recently as the fall of 2011, a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute found that U.S. manufacturing companies have as many as 600,000 jobs that go unfilled because companies cannot find workers with the proper skills.

For example, Amazon.com recently announced it was acquiring Kiva Systems, a warehouse-automation systems company, for $775 million.  This undoubtedly will end up costing the economy more jobs. Instead of hiring more human warehouse workers to meet growing demand, robots (manufactured by Kiva) will locate items and transport them to workers to pack and ship. This change will help Amazon lower labor costs and improve accuracy.  Essentially these robots will make up a significant demographic in Amazon’s future workforce.

But robots aren’t created by adding water to powder. Nor are they maintenance free.  That could be the reason that the number of online help-wanted ads seeking robotics expertise shot up 44% in the first two months of 2012 alone, according to research firm Wanted Analytics. Engineers, the most of any occupational field, experience a 51% year-over-year increase. Technology related jobs that required robotics skills increased as well, up 66% from January 2011.

That growth has created a widening chasm between the supply of career line workers and the demand for workers who can operate PLCs, programmable logic controllers. The irony of this situation is that the industry associated with the highest job losses (auto manufacturers) are now scrambling to find robot engineers and technicians.  Unfortunately for many of the laid-off workers, the jobs they left in 2008 no longer exist. And the skills they have used for 20 or 30 years no longer apply. Even when the auto manufacturers are looking for workers, they can’t just hire back former employees.

Cloud computing is another innovation that gets blame for a loss of jobs. And yet this industry is creating millions of new jobs too. 

Global tech research and advisory firm IDC says by the end of 2015 almost 14 million new jobs will be created by the shift to public and private cloud services. Unfortunately most of those new jobs will be outside the U.S. and Canada, although North America will get 1.2 million new jobs, most of them in the U.S.

How does innovation that displaces workers create new jobs? The time and money now spent managing in-house systems will be freed up for other projects. New business innovation, which leads to business revenue, leads to more job creation. Rather than eliminate IT jobs, the migration to cloud computing will create new different jobs.

The Deloitte survey also found 5 percent of current manufacturing jobs are unfilled due to lack of qualified candidates, 67 percent of manufacturers have a moderate to severe shortage of qualified workers, and 56 percent expect the shortage to increase in the next three to five years.

Nearly two in three manufacturing executives surveyed say workforce shortages or skills deficiencies in production rolls are having a significant impact on their ability to expand operations or improve productivity.

What Jobs Should the U.S. Be Creating?

The news about jobs is getting better.  The unemployment rate dipped for the fifth straight month to 8.3 percent.  The number of jobs being created has been rising at a rate of 200,000 each month, topped by 243,000 jobs added in January alone.

That is great news for the economy and fuel for a surge on Wall Street, where the Nasdaq hit an 11-year high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a peak not seen since 2008.

Does this mean the U.S. economy has found a cure for the recession or a strategy to relieve and mask the symptoms of a deeper, more serious problem?   The truth is that it’s likely a little of both.  Unfortunately that means that sooner than later the problem will resurface, much like an untreated cancer eventually weakens and destroys the functions of the body. 

Much of our unemployment since the recession has been the result of massive layoffs in construction and manufacturing.  Creating new jobs in manufacturing, according to many politicos, bureaucrats, economists, and executives, are the key to our recovery.  With more people working, more consumption will take place and more homes will be built and purchased, putting millions of unemployed construction workers back to work.  That all makes sense.

Except (you likely knew that was coming)… that the manufacturing jobs we need to create aren’t the manufacturing jobs that existed pre-2008. We don’t need workers to just make things. We need workers who make the things that make things and then make those “thing-makers” work in seamless integrated systems. 

And that’s the problem.  We have a lot of people who are really good at making things. But so does the rest of the world…and they are willing to work more hours for less money.  That’s one reason why the U.S. economy is struggling to create jobs. To compete, many of the old manufacturing jobs are gone forever. If those jobs exist, they have been automated, requiring maybe one worker to do the job of five or ten workers just a few years ago.  In other words, we could have our manufacturing output humming at record levels and still employ a fraction of the workers that did the same job 10 years ago.

****15 Careers to Avoid****

What the U.S. does better than anyone else in the world is make the things that make things. Unfortunately we don’t have enough of those skilled workers or the workers who can service those thing-makers.  We need workers who can spot a faulty circuit board, not count nuts and bolts. We need workers who can design, troubleshoot and repair a defective robotic arm, not manufacture the components of the robot.

For politicians and especially low skill workers, that situation places job creation at a painful crossroad.  For millions of workers over the past few decades, low skill jobs were the ticket to the middle class and upward mobility. But that has all changed.  Good paying careers dependent on low skill workers are gone.  That leaves tens of millions of past and future workers stuck in jobs that offer at best bare bone living wages and no future.

To create jobs that ensure workers can earn a living wage and entertain the possibility of moving up requires answers to three interrelated questions:

  1. What products should be made and supported in the U.S.?
  2. What jobs can and should be created that provide good living wages, upward mobility, and still keep the U.S. competitive?
  3. What needs to be done to train and re-train millions of low-skilled and under-skilled U.S. workers to do these jobs?

****Best Paying Jobs of the Future****

The order in which we answer the questions is critical. We first must determine what products (or services) should be made in the U.S.  Unfortunately we seem to be attempting to solve the job creation problem in reverse order. We want to train and re-train for many jobs that might be obsolete or become low-paying in the very near future.  And not all jobs that might be created help the U.S. become or remain competitive.

The U.S. is at the proverbial fork in the road.  What road should we take? What products and services should be make and support?

Speaking of jobs: The Coming Jobs War

And speaking of jobs… on the same day that Jobs died, I received an invitation to preview a new book, The Coming Jobs War.  This isn’t a book about the battle to replace Steve Jobs but the struggle to create jobs.  The author is Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup.  Clifton confirmed a fact that many of us know but “apparently few leaders” do – that “small and medium-sized American companies fund the great American way….when small and medium-sized American businesses have no growth, there is no money to send to Washington…”

Clifton describes the coming jobs war as a world war and the single most serious leadership threat for the next 30 years.  He passionately believes that for the next few decades, the world will not be led by U.S. political or military force but by the country that creates the most jobs.and quality GDP growth.  The highest levels of leadership therefore require a mastery of a new skill: job creation.

America’s most pressing current problem, according to Gallup, is a lack of good jobs. America will go broke if jobs can’t be found.  Because without a job, people don’t spend, businesses don’t start or grow, and GDP falls.

Jobs are the heart and soul of a nation. Jobs sustain everyone.   

Most of the attention for job creation features the largest companies.  The problem is that there are only about 1,000 companies with more than 10,000 employees. Despite the attention given to these largest companies, they employ just slightly more than 25 percent of all non-public workers.

In comparison, the Census Bureau reports that as of 2007, there were about 6 million businesses in the United States with at least one employer.  Businesses with 500 or fewer employees represent more than 99% of these 6 million. There are slightly more than 88,000 companies with 100 to 500 employees and about 18,000 with 500 to 10,000 workers. Those businesses with less than 100 employers represent nearly 35 percent of all workers and contribute as much payroll as does the largest employers (approximately 30 percent). When you include businesses with up to 499 employees, the number of employed workers swells to 50 percent who earn over 43 percent of total payroll.

If small business is the engine of job creation, then the U.S. has a real problem. Because  the drop in the rate of new business creation since 2007 is 23 percent,  resulting in as many as 1.8 million fewer jobs. In addition the number of employees per new business has been falling, from eight in the 1990s to fewer than six in recent years.

Employers Underwhelmed By Candidates Despite High Unemployment

Despite this excess of workers to available jobs, a surprising number of employers say they are getting an underwhelming response, and many are having trouble filling open positions.

There are now 5 unemployed workers on average for every job opening. Some 15 million Americans are looking for work. And youth unemployment across the world has climbed to a new high, according to an International Labor Organization report studying the “lost generation.” 

For example, only 20 people show up at a job fair showed up at a Central Pennsylvania convenience store chain job fair last week, which was hiring for 35 to 40 jobs.  And just a few weeks earlier, just 6 people showed up at a free Employment Skills Boot Camp in Cumberland County (PA), aimed at helping displaced workers create or update resumes and practice techniques to increase their interview skills.

The problem is not isolated to Pennsylvania.  A Wall Street Journal recently reported that a manufacturing plan in Ohio, has been struggling to hire a few toolmakers. "It's bizarre,” Dan Cunningham, chief executive of the Long-Stanton Manufacturing Co. “We are just not getting applicants. This is as bad now as at the height of business back in the 1990s.”

The owner of a lawnmower shop in Indiana says he has been looking for a good mechanic so he can guarantee a one-week turnaround on repairs. He received only two responses to an Internet ad he placed a couple of months ago, even though the job can generate income of more than $40,000 a year.

At the airline Emirates, job fairs held in Miami, Houston, San Francisco and Seattle attracted an average of about 50 people each.  That’s a fraction of the number of candidates who apply at similar fairs in other countries: as many as 1,000 apply at some events in Europe and Asia. These jobs require little more than a high-school diploma and fluency in English. They include free accommodation and medical care, and starting pay of about $30,000 a year. A drawback is likely that Americans might be hesitant to move to Dubai, where the jobs are based. Then again, out-of-work U.S. workers seem to have a safety net.

Employers feel that many of the applicants roaming the floor at job fairs are simply just going through the motions so they could collect their unemployment checks. It appears that some unemployed workers consider jobless benefits an entitlement, not a benefit. 

Another factor is a trend that many experts predicted for nearly two decades – a serious employee skill gap.  The recession not decimated retirement funds but forced a structural change in our job market. Companies slashed millions of middle-skill, middle-wage jobs since the start of the recession. That has created a glut of people who can't qualify for the highly skilled jobs being created but are having a hard time adjusting to Many out-of-work workers, particularly in construction and manufacturing simply don’t have the skills to pick up where they left off when the economic train left the station.

The head of hiring at environmental consultancy Apex Companies says she recently received about 150 applications for an industrial hygienist job paying as much as $47,000 a year. That is about three times the amount she received for similar jobs before the recession. Unfortunately the 5 qualified applicants she received was less than she got before.

"We've always been looking for a needle in a haystack," she reported to the Wall Street Journal. "There's still only one needle, but the haystack has gotten a lot bigger than it was before." 

Linda Fillingham, co-owner of Mechanical Devices Company in Bloomington, IL, is combing through the haystack too. She could use 30 to 40 workers right now, according to a recent CBS News report. She’s not alone. The government says there are 227,000 open manufacturing jobs, more than double the number a year ago. One hundred eighty-three thousand have been created since December, the strongest seven-month streak in a decade.

Unfortunately for Fillingham, it's a shortage of workers, not work that is holding her company back. She’s willing to pay $13 to $18 an hour and still can’t find qualified candidates who are good at math, good with their hands and willing to work on a factory floor.

This disconnect between workers and jobs could handicap the economy for some time. Employers need workers with the combination of analytical skills, intuition and resilience to do the jobs. Many of the out-of-workers simply don’t have what it takes…and it’s only going to get worse.

According to Edward Gordon, author of Winning the Global Talent Showdown, “between today and 2020, it is expected that 74 percent of all jobs created in America will be high-paying jobs for high-skilled workers. While there will be a need for 123 million of those talented people, only 50 million Americans will qualify.   By contrast, low-paying, low-skill jobs will shrink to just 26 percent of the total jobs in the U.S.   Worst of all, just 44 million people will be needed for those jobs, but 150 million or more candidates will be seeking those jobs.”

In other words, despite high unemployment rates, the U.S. as it stands does not have enough people to fill the jobs that should be created and an oversupply of people to fill jobs that are or should be obsolete.

Only 20 Percent of Workers Qualify for High Demand Jobs

Despite prolonged high unemployment, employers are struggling to find qualified skilled workers? How is this possible?



“Everyone has been caught flatfooted,” according to author/human capital expert Edward Gordon.  During a recent interview on my radio show Workforce Trends, Gordon said, “we only have 20% to 25% of the current workforce that fits into jobs that are in high demand right now….where we are creating jobs, not where we are abandoning and consolidating jobs.”



Gordon has been warning about this talent meltdown since 1991, when he authored the first of 17 books.  “Across the United States refineries are breaking down with unusual frequency. Though BP and other refiners are making major safety changes, the breakdowns frequently stem from technician errors due to increasing shortages of trained workers,” wrote Gordon in the introduction if his newest book “Winning the Global Talent Showdown.” He wrote that statement nearly a year before the Deep Horizon well accident in the Gulf of Mexico this year.



The Wall Street Journal reported a story in mid-July that Congress was investigating if the accident was related to a lack of properly trained technicians on the rig.  Then just a few days later, the Journal reported that a critical alarm system had been disabled which would have warned workers of dangers.  The story line unraveling at the scene of the accident seems to confirm Gordon’s forecast – a shortage in the quantity and quality of personnel and decision making ability is imminent.  Gordon warns that if we don’t do something quickly about re-training and educating people differently, “the world will not end in a big bang but in a slow grinding halt.”



It’s not that mankind hasn’t seen shortages like these in the past.  When we entered the Industrial Age beginning somewhere around 1850, we needed people to design, manufacture, and repair things.  That need created a lot of blue collar, semi- skilled, and low- skilled jobs that paid enough money to workers so that that they could live a middle class lifestyle. While 84% of those workers graduated from high school by the 1950s, many of them were only reading at the 6th or 8th grade level. But that didn’t matter – there were still jobs for them.  They could make a good living and raise a family in comfortable surroundings.



But then technology began to change everything.  In the 1970s, the Industrial Era became history and the Computer Age began to change the nature of work. Jobs now required different skills at a higher education level.  We still needed people to design, manufacture, and repair things but the complexity of the work required better skills. We started shutting down and shedding many of those low- skill and semi- skill jobs. They started going elsewhere – to Japan and South Korea. At the time they were the skilled low-wage countries.  Now, it is India and China who are low-wage and Japan and South Korea are high- wage countries.  But that too is changing according to Gordon who says, “wage inflation is beginning to change the nature of work in India and China, too.”



Unfortunately the U.S. work mindset remained the same while the world changed.  Many leaders in business and government believed that only a certain proportion of our people needed to be really well- educated and the rest could get along pretty well with a mediocre education or no education at all. As a result, we now have more than 90 million US workers who lack the reading, writing, and math skills to do the jobs properly. Our education system is just so far behind resulting in 95 million adults are reading at or below the 8th grade reading level. That is just a staggering number. It is almost the third of our population.



Now we find ourselves exiting the Computer Era and entering the Cyber-Mental Age, where advanced technologies are embedded in everything.  “We need the people who have the necessary higher levels of literacy in math and reading, and special technical training in virtually every business sector you can think of from A to Z,” says Gordon. “Things are changing so fast in every industry that unless something is done, a lot of current workers, incumbent workers, will find themselves with skills that are out of date.


“The warning signs,” says Gordon, “started a long time ago.” He wrote a book on this called “Closing the Literacy Gap in American Business” nearly 20 years ago. Yet here we are living in a country with 30 states experiencing unemployment rates over 8% and 20 states with rates at or above 9%. And still many employers are complaining they can’t find enough skilled workers.



Today’s long-term jobs crisis is not about the current financial meltdown. It is about an accelerating talent showdown. The basic cause is that unprecedented technological advances are ever more rapidly transforming the world of work. This will continue to raise the U.S. talent ante for people seeking employment or for businesses that need to fill high-skill jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor finds that 62 percent of all U.S. jobs now require two-year or four-year degrees and higher, or special postsecondary occupation certificates or apprenticeships. By 2020 we can expect that these talent requirements will increase to include 75 percent of U.S. jobs.



The World Future Society predicts that over the next decade the amount of new technology introduced into the U.S. economy will equal that of the last 50 years! While it took 120 years for the nature of work to change from the beginning to the end of the Industrial Era, it only took 40 years for the Computer Age to change work. We are already witnessing a major talent shift from low-skill jobs to more complex knowledge jobs across major world economies as we enter what Gordon calls the “Cyber-Mental Age” of ultra-high technology.



And that’s why today we are living in a world of high unemployment and skilled worker shortages, or as Gordon calls it: a world of “abundance and poverty.”


Listen to the full interview on Workforce Trends or request a transcript of the show.


How Effective Is Retraining After a Layoff?

"Every time someone’s laid off now, they need to start over,” says Gary Burtless, a labor economist with the Brookings Institute. And that’s exactly what thousands of unemployed workers are doing.

But as a recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out, “retraining offers no quick fix,” while retraining may improve unemployed workers' long-term prospects, many are struggling to find work in the short term. High unemployment and even higher underemployment has created a deep pool of workers competing for the positions available. For many workers, training opens doors — but it doesn't necessarily shorten the job search. Although industries like health care and education are still growing and hiring, millions of workers are training to enter these fields. Applications keep piling up.

Labor Department figures show there was one job opening for every 5.4 unemployed workers seeking work in January. That compares with about one opening for every two job seekers before the recession.

Jobs and growth expert Tom Gimbel explains that what is happening now is no different than 100 years ago when workers who forged horseshoes had to learn to make tires. Gimbel, who is also CEO of Chicago-based staffing and recruiting firm Lasalle Network, sees the elimination of many jobs, including semi-skilled and professional jobs, due to automation and efficiencies. That means that re-training itself isn’t the solution. In many cases, a successful job search will end only with re-education.

“People who have never been without a job in their lives are finding themselves unemployed,” writes Joe Watson in his new book, "Where the Jobs are Now."  Watson suggests that workers seeking job security in the future should look at industries such as health care, biotechnology, education, green energy, government and information technology. 

Demand is growing for accounting jobs too. The job site Indeed.com currently has nearly 125,000 job postings in the accounting industry, an increase of 10% over February. But the jobs in highest demand are at tax professionals, financial analysts, and compliance officers. The starting salaries are good and apparently rising again after dropping or stalling in 2009. But careers and experience in these jobs are not something you acquire in the short-term. Many require a minimum of a two-year degree. Some require post-graduate training.  

Another industry that is growing and paying off is engineering. A new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers finds that eight of the top 10 best-paid majors are in engineering, with petroleum engineering topping off the list at $86,220. Not only do engineering majors earn the most, but the field is expected to grow at a fast clip over the next eight years with 178,300 jobs added by 2018. Biomedical engineering jobs are expected to increase by an astounding 72%–the top-growing field.

Even specialized, in-demand graduates like engineering majors are finding it difficult to find employment in this economy. National Association of Colleges and Employers found that only 42% of engineering majors found jobs in 2009, versus 70% in 2007.

Recent college graduates have been hit hard in the current recession. So far things are not looking good for liberal arts majors. Their annual unemployment rate in 2009 was 9.1%, the highest it has been since 1982. And the average starting salary decreased 11% since last year.

While it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the doom-and-gloom, training and education in the right industries is bound to pay off. Between today and 2020, it is expected that 74 percent of all jobs created in America will be high-paying jobs for high-skilled workers. While there will be a need for 123 million of those talented people, only 50 million Americans will qualify.  

That forecast is the reason why my co-author and I selected “The Future’s So Bright that I Gotta Wear Shades” as the opening title chapter in our book, "The Coming Job Boom." The unemployment road ahead is filled with opportunity for those who have the foresight to see what is coming and willing to do something about it.

Too many workers, not few skills

“The picture of the U.S. economy that emerges is of abundance and poverty,” says Edward Gordon. “Abundance of labor, poverty of talent.” In other words, despite high unemployment rates, the United States does not have enough people to fill the jobs that should be created and an oversupply of people to fill jobs that are or should be obsolete.

The economy now sits in a hole more than 10 million jobs deep. How and when we can climb out of that humongous pit seems to be the linchpin for a full-blown economic recovery. According to Gordon, author of "Winning the Global Talent Showdown," the United States is headed for this major talent meltdown with 12-24 million vacant jobs between 2010 and 2020, mostly high-paying, high-skilled jobs.

The canary has been singing in the coal mine for several decades, warning of our growing lack of talent as we enter a transitional labor-market era. Partially due to ignoring the warning and partially the result of the most recent economic crisis, businesses and governments are now confronting a day of reckoning: prolonged joblessness for the unskilled, low-skilled, and under-skilled. “We’ve been hearing alarms about the skills gap for years,” according to Gordon, president of Imperial Consulting. “But if ever there was a time to get serious about helping workers acquire the right skills, this is it.”

Unfortunately, change in the way we train and educate workers and prepare students for the future is not what you’re hearing in the news. What we’re getting is the same old theme of denial. To reboot the economy and sustain growth, we can’t just reframe existing jobs. We need to stop creating jobs that employ the current talent pool of low-skill workers. Instead, we need to stimulate middle and high-skill job growth and start creating talent. Gone forever are the days of semi-skilled, well-paying blue-collar factory jobs that can provide a 19-year-old dropout or high school graduate with a living wage. Today, counting on a low-skill manufacturing or service job to keep you in the middle class is as sensible as buying a BETA tape for a Blu-Ray DVD player.

According to Gordon’s research, “between today and 2020, it is expected that 74% of all jobs created in America will be high-paying jobs for high-skilled workers. While there will be a need for 123 million of those talented people, only 50 million Americans will qualify. By contrast, low-paying, low-skill jobs will shrink to just 26 percent of the total jobs in the U.S. Worst of all, just 44 million people will be needed for those jobs, but 150 million or more candidates will be seeking those jobs.”

You can read more from the full article I just wrote for Business2Business Magazine, "What Jobs Won't Return," on my website.