According to this article on CNBC.com, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker has indicated that one of the contributing factors to the current economic slump “is that there is a ‘labor market mismatch’ in which companies have a hard time finding skilled workers.
OK, ok…..I won’t go so far as to say that he’s wrong. I don’t have the numbers, so I’ll take him at his word and assume that he’s not a buffoon. I’m sure there’s a lot more going on in his head than what the article writer could capture in the short space she was given before the editor got to it, anyway.
Nonetheless, I find the concept of a “Labor market mismatch” is still fascinating. It essentially says this: The heads of companies want to be hiring right now, but one of the things limiting them is the labor pool. There aren’t enough people with the right skills that the decision makers in most companies, who would otherwise be hiring, need to go in the direction they want to go. If that’s the current situation, then fine.
What bothers me is that this statement assumes someone other than those very same decision makers are at fault if there aren’t enough resources. For one, if they had instituted cross-training programs across their organizations, would people be more able (and willing) to cross over organizational boundaries and work on what was most beneficial right now? Or, are these organizations stuck in a stove-piped mentality with little internal integration, stability, or sameness that would allow for such moves to happen?
Also, we’re a few years into this recession thing by now. Maybe if there had been more willingness to act with a long-term plan in mind, rather than meeting quarterly numbers, the past couple of years could have been spent on employee development and recruiting, such that you’d have the skill set you need by now?
And while we’re at it – what’s being done right now to make sure that the workforce they have today will be able to meet the needs of the future, or will we be hearing about this labor market mismatch in the future, too? Are businesses really just hoping that the right graduates come out of college with the necessary skills, or that mid-career pros will be able to utilize existing skills in entirely new ways, or are they providing guidance and resources so that the labor pool stays stocked with talent?
Oh, and how is it that this same labor pool, not 10 years ago, was riding a wave of economic prosperity? Has the world changed so much that their skills are now, somehow, totally worthless?
While I don’t doubt that there is a shortage of people in the workforce with the skills that decision makers in the business world are looking for, I think it’s a bit ridiculous for those same decision makers to blame the workforce itself for the situation.