Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What Keeps You Awake At Night?

One of the e-newsletters I get is from The Herman Group called Herman Trend Alert. It's a good read. In the one that arrived today, the subject was: Signs of a Tight Labor Market, and the two opening paragraphs were:

"While corporate leaders and human resource professionals continue denial that the labor market is tightening, numbers and reality tell a different story. People who insist that there is no shortage will soon find themselves in a very difficult reactive posture. Finding and holding good employees will become so challenging that a number of employers will be forced out of business. Those closures will have far-reaching implications. This problem is an international issue, not at all limited to a few communities, a region, one country, or just some industries.

Our correspondents report that employers are having trouble attracting applicants who have the capability to do the jobs available. There are too many job-seekers who lack literacy, experience, education, training, career focus, or ambition; many who do not even meet minimum qualifications. Employers are assigning more employees to recruiting functions in attempts to find, attract, and sell their employment opportunities to the few people who are qualified."

With all the hoopla around the buzz phrase of the decade aka The War for Talent, I wasn't surprised to see the subject matter, but rather in reading through it, especially the second paragraph, it brought back to me the one word that worries me more than anything - EDUCATION.

We see it at ExecuNet when we interview, and in talking with other business owners their eyes roll up as well when it comes to how the lack of education manifests itself in the workforce. I am not just talking about entry level positions, we see resumes from college "educated" candidates, including those with advanced degrees where one wonders how it is that they got into college much less graduated. It is a very scary thing to see.

I am sure that we have all seen the studies regarding the effectiveness of the national education systems around the world, and have seen where the U.S. continues to drop down the list. As we as a country continue to try and get our act together in terms of competing in a true global economy, it isn't the numerical advantage that places like India and China have that worry me, it is the educational standards that these countries establish for their children.

My belief is that over the long haul, as standards of living go up in places like China and India, etc., that our ability to compete on cost will start to come more into balance, but if we don't do something drastic about revitalizing our education system, then it won't be too long, as Tom Friedman says in his new book The World is Flat that things won't just say Made in China, they will say Designed in China.


Sheryl Spanier said...

Dear Dave,

I absolutely agree with you about the education challenge we face in the US. The problem is not limited to the many poorly prepared graduates, lacking basic math and English, self-management, life and work skills. Many well-educated and bright high school and college grads flail in the job market, or take several "first" jobs in succession until they "land" upon something that fits. A dream I have always had is that labor, business leaders, HR professionals and educators would collaborate to create programs that prepare graduates for life and work...creating more courses of study which include internships, work-study, career advisement and exploration experiences with a focus on FUTURE careers. A collaborative commitment to educating our future talent will be critical for the US not just to be competitive but to survive in the World Marketplace.

Jasper John R. said...

Dave: Two thoughts. #1 We have deluded ourselves into thinking that the Government is our friend. To have government run education makes no sense. The failed Communist empire demonstrated that centralize planning dooms everyone. I could go on at great length about the systematic failure it represents. Bottom line, as a Catholic with no kids, I object to the whole process. Faith based education can NOT compete when the government gives it away "free". If I had kids, I probably would have to pay twice to get my kids educated the way I wanted -- once for the government schools and once for where I wanted to send them. Since I have no kids, I object to overpaying to educate other people's -- I don't pay to house, clothe, or entertain them -- Theya re not mine, so why do I have to pay for them. #2 As you know I counsel out of work execs. I have hired people. In my various stints in transition, I've delt with tons of people. There is a complete failure in education, training, manners, and just (un)common courtesy. I am not surprised at the coursening of the executive culture which mirros the popular culture. But I am surprised, at behavior people think is acceptable when they are trying to make a good impression. As you know I talk to my fellow turkeys a lot about a "check up from the neck up". Anyway, you hit a never.