Since the crash of 2008, those idled by layoffs flocked to community colleges, trade schools and anywhere they might get extra training to be competitive in an economic system stacked against them. Then a funny thing happened. Graduates took their new knowledge to employers, who said, “Oh, I see you’ve learned A, B, C and D. That’s impressive, but we need E. Sorry.” So they probably ended up going to the pizza joint only to be told they were overqualified.
But forget picky employers and low wages for a moment. The real lie behind the skills gap myth is in the area of training. It’s way past time for employers to do what they once did -- offer on-the-job training. How many potential workers would show up for a manufacturing job if it was advertised at $25 to $30 an hour with full benefits after a 120-day training period that would pay $10 an hour? I’ll bet you couldn’t see the end of the line.
It’s not a skills gap. We’re all capable of learning jobs with training. And it’s not lazy workers. It’s training. Businesses want to pass these financial burdens onto individuals and schools to learn the ever-elusive E. Then employers will require F. Even with wages at rock bottom, companies won’t spend to train.
In Indiana, we’re looking at a training program that would combine a high-school education with on-the-job training. It’s modeled on a successful program in Germany (where economics, for the most part, are done right).
But here’s the kicker. In Germany, businesses pick up 75 percent of the training costs. So it remains a pipe dream in the U.S. where businesses are allowed to do anything they want to increase their profit as if nothing else mattered. In the U.S., it’s easier to blame shiftless workers and let jobs languish than for employers to pay for the necessary training.
Stephen Dick is a columnist for CNHI News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.