Nearly two-thirds of Tennessee employers predict it will be difficult to find the qualified workers they need over the next decade. Among 618 business leaders surveyed by the Center for Business and Economic Research in Knoxville:
66.2 percent said it will be either “hard” or “much harder” to find skilled workers in the future.
More than three of every 10 business respondents said they thought the quality of Tennessee’s work force had declined in the past decade.
The crisis reaches a climax soon because most employers said having more skilled workers increasingly is important for their business success.
You’ve heard the same story over and over, “The skill requirements for jobs are ever-increasing at the same time that much of our labor force is about to retire. The number of workers coming into the labor market isn’t going to grow as fast in the future.” (Dr. Matt Murray, a University of Tennessee economist.)
Like nearly every other state (and developed country as well), a 2008 Economic Report to the (Tennessee) Governor spells out that “If Tennessee cannot produce the skilled work force required by businesses that compete in the global marketplace, these jobs will go elsewhere, to the detriment of the state and its residents.”
Deborah K. Woolley, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said some of the biggest problems for employers today involve so-called “soft skills,” including the work ethic and communication skills of workers.
To get employees ready to work, the average Tennessee employer spends $4,152 per year on worker training, according to the employer survey.
Bob Sentell, human resources manager for Alstom Power, said his company is having to replace many of its older welders and other skilled tradesmen. At the same time, Alstom is preparing to hire 350 new workers for a new turbine division.