There is a skills gap in the U.S., and it is expected to widen over the next decade. Addressing it will take the concerted efforts of both government and — especially given strained federal and state budgets — private industry.
A paper issued last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research attributes roughly one-third of the recent rise in the unemployment rate to a mismatch between vacant jobs and unemployed workers. Those who bore the brunt of job losses — including construction and manufacturing workers — are either not looking for jobs in sectors that are hiring (such as health care) or are unqualified to get those jobs because they lack the necessary skills. Left unaddressed, this “sectoral mismatch” could result in worsening long-term unemployment.
The federal government spent about $18 billion in 2009 on 47 separate job training programs, although there is some question about their effectiveness. President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget proposal allots $8 billion for a Community College to Career Fund, which will provide money to establish community college partnerships with employers and expand job training programs for skilled careers.
The private sector should take a more active role in training the workers it needs, particularly in skilled trades, information technology and health care. The health-care industry successfully addressed last decade’s nursing shortage in part by offering scholarships and tuition reimbursement programs to encourage people to enter the profession. It is expected to face another nursing shortage after 2020.
As competition for skilled workers intensifies as the gap grows, employers will need to take advantage of “upskilling” – -the practice of training their existing workforce for more highly skilled labor. Upskilling benefits employers by boosting productivity, and it allows workers to reap the wage premium that comes with greater skills…