Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs

Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs

The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It




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The media may editorialize about a workforce “skills gap,” but education is not the problem. The hiring process is to blame, says Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli. Contrary to popular wisdom, he says, candidates do have the academic skills they need, but employers’ training and hiring processes need vast improvement. For instance, application screening software creates hurdles few applicants can overcome and eliminates many applicants with relevant skills. Expectations that candidates will arrive with the knowledge they need for a specific job means that only candidates with experience in exactly that job get hired. Capelli parses the myths surrounding the skills gap and addresses misconceptions about today’s workforce. He urges companies to use training to create the best possible employees and to weigh training costs against the financial penalties of job vacancies, which are more expensive than most managers realize. Cappelli concludes his brief but powerful manual with a list of training options and examples of companies that have implemented them successfully. getAbstract recommends his treatise to any managers who hire and all HR directors and officers.


The Mythical “Skills Gap”

Common wisdom says job openings stay vacant because candidates don’t meet the minimum qualifications for requisite skills or education. The media reinforce this claim with headlines about a national skills gap in the US workforce. Yet, the 2011 Manpower survey offers data that weaken any argument about how a skills gap hampers today’s workers. It shows:

  • No pattern for skills shortage – Since 2006, the same 10 jobs have remained the most difficult to fill: “technician, sales rep, skilled trade, engineer, laborer, management-executive, accounting and finance staff, IT staff, production ops” and “office support.” Of these, laborers and office support staff members don’t need skills beyond the abilities of a high-school graduate. Technicians and skilled tradespeople mostly learn their skills on the job. Secondary education delivers the skills necessary for engineers, accountants and IT.
  • Wage concerns – Generally, 11% of employers make job offers at pay rates that workers reject. An organization’s refusal to pay the going market wage doesn’t indicate a skills gap.
  • Employers don...

About the Author

Management professor Peter Cappelli directs the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of Business, where he teaches. He writes for The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek.

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