One of the great economic development columns published today is BOTTOM LINE by Charles Lawton, in the Maine Today business section. Recently, he wrote, Maine doesn’t have a jobs problem; we have a skills problem.
He points to the increasing competition for skilled workers. Even in economically depressed areas, certain industries are begging for qualified people. Think about construction, nursing, truck driving (especially haz mat), and specialty manufacturing.
So why do we have skill shortages? Why aren’t people investing in themselves?
The reason, I think, is twofold. First, we misunderstand our changing economy.
In short, we need to make the labor market work better by bringing more direct information about the skills needed in the business world into our educational institutions.
The second reason for skill shortages lies less with the education sector and more with the business sector. Just as the conventional wisdom “you have to go to college to get ahead” misses important aspects of the real world of manufacturing, so the conventional wisdom that “but I offer competitive wages” misses important aspects of worker motivation.
In short, just as schools must improve their knowledge of the actual job skills required in the business world, so too must businesses improve their knowledge of the career paths available to their employees. The 19th-century model of human “help” as a mechanistic part of the assembly process no longer applies in Maine.
Business success and employee career growth are increasingly intertwined. The businesses that recognize this fact will both attract the skills they need and grow their companies in ways they don’t yet understand.
Treat yourself. Read the whole article.
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