Clearly, there’s no shortage of people looking for jobs these days. So how is it possible that companies claim the “skills gap” is keeping them from finding the people they need?
In a recent interview on knowledge@wharton, the blog for the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, professor Peter Cappelli discussed employers complaining about not being able to find job candidates with the right skills.
But most of the so-called “skills gap” problems, Cappelli says, occur because “employers’ requirements are crazy, they’re not paying enough or their applicant screening is so rigid that nobody gets through.”
Cappelli, who is the author of the recent book, Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It, points out that many employers don’t want to invest in the costs of training.
What they’re interested in, he says, is hiring people who are “currently doing exactly the same job someplace else.”
But most of the skills they seek can’t be learned in the classroom — they’re learned in the real world. And that, of course, pretty much eliminates candidates coming right out of school.
On-the-job training has largely gone the way of the dinosaur over the years, according to figures in Cappelli’s book:
- In 1979, young workers received an average of two and a half weeks of training per year
- in 1991, only 17% of young employees reported getting any training during the previous year, and
- last year, just 21% said they’d received any training during the previous five years.
There also seems to be a disconnect between employers’ expectation that because of the glut of candidates, they should be able to hire new workers at lower salaries and the actual response of job candidates to the lowball offers.
Cappelli cites a Manpower study in which 11% of companies say they’re having trouble getting people to take their open jobs at the wages offered.
“So 11% are saying we’re not paying enough. If 11% admit this, my guess is the real number is probably double that,” Cappelli says.
Finally, too many employers seem to cling to the belief that there’s so many people out there, we’ve got to be able to find the perfect fit for our opening.
That leads to setting expectations that are probably impossible to fill — and simply take up HR time and resources through innumerable interviews and shuffling resumes.
How much does vacancy cost?
What would Capelli do if he was an employer? First, he says, he’d try to figure out “what it’s costing me to keep a position open. It’s got to be costing something.
” Do I know what it’s costing me to train somebody versus hiring somebody and chasing them on the outside? If you have answers to those questions, you start realizing that it does cost something to keep vacancies open.
“Searching forever for somebody … that’s not a good idea. So, maybe we ought to revise our hiring requirements and just get somebody in there and start doing the job.”