Even (Relatively) Low-Skilled Jobs Are Going Unfilled

The New York Times reports:

“Companies all over are having a difficult time recruiting the kind of people they’re looking for,” said Robert Funk, chairman and chief executive of Express Employment Professionals, a national staffing firm based in Oklahoma City that helped some 335,000 people land jobs last year. “We currently have 18,000 open job orders we can’t fill.”

But why the difficulties? We keep hearing about high skilled, high tech positions like computer programming and petroleum engineering going unfilled, but how could it be that more “humdrum” jobs aren’t getting filled? Later paragraphs in the story give us some clues.

Although the people quoted blame the shortage of truck drivers on the fact that it’s unglamorous and you have to pass a drug test, I think these details give us a pretty big clue:

That challenge is magnified because insurance companies typically require drivers to have up to two years of experience driving a truck before they will cover them, Mr. Hoag said. While larger companies can afford to train drivers, Mr. Hoag said he relied on Craigslist and a Minneapolis recruiter to find them — but the recruiter, he said, “is struggling to find people, too.”

How are people supposed to get two years of experience if no one will insure them without two years of experience? How do employers expect to find “qualified” truckers if they’re not willing to spend money on training? Trucking is a lonely, often miserable job but I’m sure there are millions of unemployed Americans who can pass a drug test and would love the opportunity to support their families on a trucker’s wage.

There’s apparently a shortage of machine operators as well:

Mr. Greenblatt currently has five openings for machine operators, positions that don’t require college degrees but pay, on average, about $60,000. What candidates do need are skills like the ability to operate a computer, read a blueprint and use a caliper. […]

“My operators are in constant contact with our customers, so they need to be able to articulate through e-mail,” Mr. Greenblatt said. “But you’d be surprised at how many people can’t do that. I can’t have them e-mailing Boeing or Pfizer if their grammar is terrible.”

You can chalk some of this up to writing, even if it’s just e-mail, being really hard. But this is an indictment of the education system. Why do we have so few people who can respond to customer e-mails?

Full Story:The New York Times: A Sea of Job-Seekers, but Some Companies Aren’t Getting Any Bites

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  1. Human infrastructure investment is not a priority because it doesn’t bring an immediate return to anyone who isn’t selling human infrastructure products.

    Public education is another human infrastructure “the 1%” doesn’t really want to put money into.

    C-level people would rather whine about “you just can’t get good help these days” than open their checkbooks and do something about it.

  2. There’s another factor. If you’ve been made homeless due to the current economy, you’re simply poison to all employers:

    The Sharp, Sudden Decline of America’s Middle Class

  3. I know someone who recently started an auto insurance agency. He put out an ad on craigslist. He received several resumes, but he deemed none of the people qualified to work for him. The job is a low-level, low-skill customer-service type job that doesn’t pay a lot of money, and doesn’t really offer that many incentives. He’s unwilling to raise the pay incentives, and he doesn’t want to provide ANY training at all. He would like an employee that already knows the proprietary computer system that he uses, but this is totally unrealistic. In his experience, it would be a waste of his time, since many of the people wouldn’t be able to learn what he wants them to do quickly enough, plus they may leave for greener pastures, neutralizing his time investment.

    His main employee is someone who is overqualified for the job, but has low self-esteem and doesn’t think he can do any better elsewhere.

  4. Unsurprising with the IT industry as well. They want X number of years experience in highly specialized software packages, but you have to be willing to take bottom dollar and pass recruitment tests. The people that qualify for the job know the salary they used to command and aren’t willing to start at the bottom, but the hiring companies want just that. It’s a lose-lose situation. Skilled labor of any sort right now has massive pre-requisites that the labor market is unwilling to fill for minimal pay. Starting at the bottom of the company with 15 years experience already under your belt is ridiculous to ask. The current entry level IT jobs don’t even appeal to college graduates who are looking to get paid to fend off their student loans. Taking a job for $15.00/hr as a 4 year programming major with student loans just isn’t worth it. Going back to college to defer your loans until the market is ripe is the better option. Right now employers just aren’t willing to make “entry level” jobs attractive with better pay, good benefits, on the job training, and a willingness to skim over “a minimum of 6 years experience in X”. Taking in all these points you still have to get past recruiter gate keepers who have no idea what the business is actually looking for to fill the job versus what the business will actually take. If the business recruits for 4 years of ASP, Python, Ruby on Rails, and Java and you only have 3 years or you only have Python, you’re disqualified even though the business actually just wanted someone to maintain their website which is HTML and Java. In short, the current job market is unrealistic and unsustainable. Businesses need to be realistic and not optimistic.

  5. An interesting insight as well into the blue collar work force: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/labor-ready-jobs-temp-workers-investigation

  6. I’ve been snubbed for the experience requirements before as well. Before I got my current job, I applied for several relatively low skilled positions and gave polite and timely follow ups on the phone and in person. I’ve gotten used to not receiving calls back. I guess what really floored me was being rejected out of hand for ridiculous things like jobs which require scrubbing toilets and cleaning windows which require 2 years of prior experience or even low skilled warehouse labor.

    How is anyone expected to gain experience in any field if nobody will take a little time anymore to train anyone? My girlfriend and I joke about it – in 20 years you’ll have to have 5 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree just to flip a hamburger at McDonalds. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining because I think I’m entitled to a job. I want those jobs and I want to prove that I’m capable of doing them and prove to my employers that I’m ready and willing to perform all my duties and LEARN how to do new ones as is needed in order to make something other than $7.25/hr. But I’ll be frank – if you’re a young person with little job experience, going to college part time, and struggling to pay bills there really aren’t many options out there for you. You can work bottom of the barrel service jobs and that’s about it. I’m not asking for handouts, I just want an employer to take me seriously and get to know that I’m a hard worker who’s willing to expand my set of skills to make me more marketable and more profitable.

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