For some time, educational reform advocates claimed reform was urgent because the U.S. will not be able to compete in the global economy. I do not see that rationale used so much anymore, but I am noticing some new ones. A few weeks ago, I listened to a radio show that focused on new initiatives and partnerships between community colleges and the manufacturing sector. In that discussion, the lack of qualified workers was mentioned. Now, I find this same narrative repeated in a Business Week article here.
"Businesses say the slow pace of education reform is hurting their bottom lines. Intel (INTC), the world’s largest semiconductor maker, is having difficulty filling 2,895 U.S.-based engineering positions, according to an Intel spokeswoman. RightNow Technologies (RNOW), which helps businesses offer online and live-chat customer service, has to burn through about 100 résumés to find one person who has the necessary math, science, and computer training. “We need reform,” says Chief Executive Officer Greg Gianforte. “Without highly educated and motivated individuals, we don’t have a future.”
Workers supporting the Space Program have been laid off in droves, across a large spectrum of skills, including engineers. University students are graduating and finding it difficult to get jobs. There are returning soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq that also represents a pool that have qualified workers to fill these positions. In 2009, Business Week reported that there is no shortage of U.S. engineers in spite of what industry leaders claim. Sorry, if RightNow Technologies has to "burn through" so many resumes, but perhaps their Human Resources Department needs to change approaches. How about the local Workforce Development Office or Hire a Hero Program? Companies must also revisit their internal training programs; those investments have fallen off dramatically. There was a strong customer support employment base before companies began to ship them overseas, which had nothing to do with supply of workers and everything to do with cheap labor costs elsewhere.
Under the current rates of high unemployment, filling current job openings is a rather cynical narrative to advocate for fast-paced education reform.
Find the earlier blog on Boosting Skilled Blue Collar Workers here. http://grumpythings.blogspot.com/2011/06/boosting-skilled-blue-collared.html