As if Hurricane Sandy weren’t enough, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman tells us, “We’re in the midst of a perfect storm.” But he wasn’t talking about the weather or climate change or even politics. He was talking about worker education.
Friedman agrees with Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz that “even before the Great Recession we had a mounting skills problem as a result of 25 years of U.S. education failing to keep up with rising skills demands,” and, he says, “it’s getting worse.”
To illustrate his message he recounts the experience of the CEO of Wyoming Machine in Minnesota, who was desperate to hire skilled welders to fulfill a lucrative contract. She found plenty of people who could “make beautiful welds,” she said, but that wasn’t nearly enough to meet the stringent requirements. “Unlike a Chinese firm that does high-volume, low-tech jobs,” she explained, “we do a lot of low-volume, high-tech jobs, and each one has its own design drawings. So a welder has to be able to read and understand five different design drawings in a single day.”
Her solution? Training her own people to the high standards she needed.
As she explained to Friedman, “while schools are trying hard, training your own workers is often the only way for many employers to adapt to ‘the quick response time’ demanded for ‘changing skills’.”
The combination of globalization and changing technology has eliminated many decent-wage, middle-skilled jobs. They are being replaced by decent-wage, high-skilled jobs that require more skill, more education, and more ability to adapt to ongoing change. The days when you could train a worker once and be done with it are long gone. And they’re not coming back. Even universities and community colleges have a hard time staying ahead of the curve – so there’s often a mismatch between what schools teach and what the market needs.
That’s the kind of problem that SAP Education helps employers solve every day. That’s why we tailor products and services to where workers are now in their skills and capabilities, and that’s why we build programs to get them where they need to be. And it’s why we create adaptable learning tools that help workers continue to expand and upgrade their skills and knowledge.
We don’t guarantee blue skies, but we’re pretty comfortable in the eye of the storm. Let’s talk about how we can help you prepare for the surge.
To read the full article, titled If You’ve Got the Skills, She’s Got the Job, go to http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/opinion/sunday/Friedman-You-Got-the-Skills.html