Saturday, July 28, 2012

Corporatist greed causes skilled worker "shortage"

Every few days, you might flip by the finance pages and notice that despite 8.2% U.S. unemployment, there's a shortage of workers in many needed positions. Here's an example this week from Bloomberg and Yahoo! Finance where small businesses are complaining that they can't expand due to not be able to find the right work.
Grooming incumbent workers fell out of favor with the rise of information technology and the knowledge and service economies, which created demand for highly specific skills and led to certification programs and other types of education, said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, in Washington.

"‘Qualified' used to mean a high school degree," Carnevale said. "Now the qualification level has gone up so they're pressing for better people."

Technical proficiency isn't always enough. Employers also report a shortage of what they call "soft skills," including the ability to solve problems, think critically and work in teams. Workers who exhibit such traits can be candidates to train for higher-skilled jobs.

"They'd prefer to buy the skill rather than have to make it, but the skill base in the workforce is not there," Carnevale said.

Efforts like Cincinnati's remain highly localized and no match for the growing skills gap. By 2020, employers worldwide could face a shortage of 85 million high- and medium-skilled workers, according to a June report from the McKinsey Global Institute in Washington.
In a related story, a Wall Street Journal survey found that 41% of small manufacturers said they couldn't find applicants with the right skills to fill their job openings. Well, that sure sounds like something we should pay well for and concentrate on, doesn't it? Because after all, Econ 101 tells us that if there's a shortage of something, then prices have to rise to meet the demand and encourage more suppliers (i.e. skilled workers) to enter the market.

So is that happening, and are some of our workers getting good pay raises in these fields with scarcity? OF COURSE NOT! If you look on Page 7 of the BLS' survey of wages and occupations in the U.S., look at what some of these skilled postions make on a full-time basis.

Median full-time weekly wages, 2011, selected occupations
Carpenters $630
Construction laborers $586
Electricians $857
Pipelayers, pipefitters, plumbers $851
Roofers $523
Sheet metal workers $805
Highway Maintenance $708
HVAC mechaincs and installers $793
Machinists $755
Cutting/punching/pressing machine operators $591
Other metal workers $561

Only the pipefitters and sheet metal workers made more than $20 an hour last year. Sorta hard to get good work if you're not going to pay for it, huh?

So what's the answer to solving this in manufacturing-heavy Wisconsin? Well according to former Bucyrus CEO Tim Sullivan, it's bringing in more immigrants to work for cheap. Oh, and turning the K-12 educational system "upside down" by pushing more students into technical education and having them attend tech colleges to enhance their skills.

Well, given that Gov. Walker appointed Sullivan to head up Scotty's workforce development initiative, I'm sure Scotty will concur and help to pay for this needed change in our schools. Oh wait, Walker cut K-12 schools by over $800 million a year, so over half of Wisconsin's districts had to reduce classes in "extra" areas like voc-ed and career development. After high school, Scotty also did damage, as his budget cut technical schools by 30% and refused to allow for property tax increases to pay for any expansions, which has caused waiting lists and reductions in classes that could ease the lack of workers in certain fields. Scotty and Timmy might want to get on the same page with this one.

And you'll notice that Sullivan's desired usage of more immigrants or restructing of schools requires no extra investments from the businesses themselves in order to pay more or train their employees. Instead it throws all the burdens onto the general taxpayer to make these changes in the schools to give the businesses what they want. Not a bad form of welfare for CEOs like Tim Sullivan, isn't it?

It's not like manufacturing corporations don't have dimes to spare. Just look at the earnings that were announced for the company who bought Bucyrus- Caterpillar industries.
[Earnings-per-share] jumped 67% year-over-year to $2.54, beating analysts' estimate of $2.28.

Revenue jumped 22% to $17.4 billion, beating the $16.9 billion estimate.
That's right, Caterpillar's earnings are up 67% in 1 year, but they and other manufacturers still can't afford to pay their current and potential employees more and offer better training? As Lee Elia might say, "My fucking ass!" Our alleged worker skills crisis in America is really the result of the union-busting and low wages that have been hallmarks of the last 30 years of corporate greed. I shed no tears for these CEOs and business owners about their "problem", and I offer an easy solution- PAY THEM AND THEY WILL COME.

It's how the free market works, and it's time for you "free marketeers" to walk the walk about it instead of expecting immigrants and government policies to bail yourselves out.

1 comment:

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