Basic skill crisis or lack of necessary skills among workers is a rising concern in the American economy. Finding persons with the right skills to fill well paid jobs requiring high skills is proving a daunting task for U.S. employers. Skilled labor or workers with education and experience in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are necessary to meet the demands of the modern workplace. However, a recent international survey of workers in 24 developed countries revealed that workers in the U.S. fell behind those in many other countries in literacy, math, and problem-solving skills. They ranked in the middle of the list for literacy and almost at the bottom when it came to math and technological abilities.
Why American Workers Fall Short on Skills
Despite high unemployment rates, many U.S. employers say that there is a mismatch between the available domestic workforce and the skills they are looking for. It’s no wonder that they resort to IT and business process outsourcing and hiring foreign workers with specialized skills. Worker education could hold the key to resolving the problem. In a joint survey conducted by Kaplan University and LinkedIn, workers admitted they needed to acquire new skills to stay competitive and get ahead in their career.
Despite the pressing need, U.S companies are often hesitant to invest in worker education. The reasons for this predicament are:
- Employers fear that they will lose the workers once they are equipped with better skills. Skilled employees usually seek better employment opportunities that offer higher pay, amenities, and perks.
- Many organizations consider training as a cost and expense. They don’t want to invest in training their employees. Programs like apprenticeships which are common in Europe have become non-existent in the U.S.
- Individual employers find it difficult to set up the infrastructure required for training their workers.
Experts say that broader workforce training such as feeder schools for occupational vocations could be one solution to fill the skill gap. To encourage students to train themselves to meet the needs of the job market, they should be exposed to the workplace so that they can understand the importance of acquiring such skills.
It is also recommended that financial aid should be extended to workers who want to improve their skills. Right now, the focus of such aid is on formal higher education.
Online worker training programs or workplace training programs can also help. Online courses for workers should serve as a condition for extended unemployment benefits and be considered as an option to traditional government job training programs.
Improving the skills of the workforce would increase average wage rates in the country, which can speed up economic recovery.