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Competition grows for skilled labor.



Ask almost any group of corporate CEOs or anyone running a business what it will take to give their businesses a competitive edge in the next century, and their answer consistently will be "skilled workers." Ask those same business leaders what their biggest headaches are today, and you'll hear all about their companies' difficulties in finding a reliable pool of these workers.

And so we are faced with a dilemma. In the final four years of this century, the experts estimate that our economy will create six or seven million new jobs, the vast majority of which will require higher-level skills. But barely half of all new workers entering the workforce will be equipped with these skills. A recent Washington Post survey of regional high-tech firms found that fewer than two in five job applicants had the appropriate skills required for the job. Few things pose a greater threat to our future economic health than this gaping disparity between the high demand for skilled employees and the meager mea·ger also mea·gre  
adj.
1. Deficient in quantity, fullness, or extent; scanty.

2. Deficient in richness, fertility, or vigor; feeble: the meager soil of an eroded plain.

3.
 supply of them available for work.

Years ago, when brawn brawn  
n.
1. Solid and well-developed muscles, especially of the arms and legs.

2. Muscular strength and power.

3. Chiefly British The meat of a boar.

4. Headcheese.
 rather than brains was the key to industrial success, all that mattered was a steady supply of broad shoulders on which to build our economy. With factories stoking at high capacity, and assembly lines churning out a steady stream of manufactured goods manufactured goods nplmanufacturas fpl; bienes mpl manufacturados

manufactured goods nplproduits manufacturés 
, the typical shopfloor worker wasn't asked to do much more than punch the time clock.

Today, the broad shoulders of this economy are actually in the brain power of its workers. Factory workers are now expected to operate sophisticated technology, work in teams, and take responsibility for quality control. More than half of all employees today must interact with computers on the job, a figure that will rise to 95% of all workers by the turn of the century.

Just about every job in the economy has been similarly transformed. The forklift operator doesn't simply operate the forklift, but also tracks inventories using a computerized database. Nor is the sales rep merely a persuasive talker any longer. He or she must be familiar with high-tech gadgetry gadg·et·ry  
n.
1. Gadgets considered as a group.

2. The design or construction of gadgets.

Noun 1. gadgetry - appliances collectively; "laborsaving gadgetry"
 and be able to, translate its value to prospective customers.

According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 the economist Lester Thurow Lester Carl Thurow (1938) is a former dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of numerous bestsellers on mainstream economics.

Thurow was born in Livingston, Montana. He received his B.A.
, "Our nation will rise and fall based on the skills and knowledge of our workers. We can have all the natural resources, all the capital, and all the technology available at our fingertips "Fingertips" is a 1963 number-one hit single recorded live by "Little" Stevie Wonder for Motown's Tamla label. Wonder's first hit single, "Fingertips" was the first live, non-studio recording to reach number-one on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in the United States. , but if we don't have the people to make it work, we don't have a competitive advantage."

This mismatch between skill needs and skilled workers is the dark cloud dark cloud  

See absorption nebula.
 hanging over our economic future. But there is a silver lining silver lining
n.
A hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty.



[From the proverb "Every cloud has a silver lining".
. It goes by the name "skill standards," and it may be the best-kept secret for securing and replenishing our nation's competitiveness. The National Skill Standards Board The National Skill Standards Board was a coalition of community, business, labor, education, and civil rights leaders. It was tasked with building a national voluntary system of skill standards, assessment, and certification to enhance the ability of the United States workforce to  - a business-led group - is working for the voluntary adoption of skill standards throughout the economy.

Much like a physician's medical boards or a pilot's jet training, skill standards would specify the knowledge and skills required to master a specific type of job, and provide clear benchmarks for making employment and training decisions. The human resource puzzle would be solved because standards would highlight a job candidate's specific skills and capabilities - and minimize the risk involved in hiring that person. A certified employee will have demonstrated the teamwork, initiative, and concern for quality that provide added value Added value in financial analysis of shares is to be distinguished from value added. Used as a measure of shareholder value, calculated using the formula:

Added Value = Sales - Purchases - Labour Costs - Capital Costs
 in today's workplace.

Consider the manufacturing industry. The National Skill Standards Board is working with The National Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing and The Industrial Union Department to identify standards and certify workers in key manufacturing, installation, and repair skills. Once certified, a worker will be able to walk into almost any manufacturing position in any part of the industry nationwide and apply this knowledge directly to the job. That's why it's called a standard.

For both employers and employees, skill standards provide a win-win scenario. Employers win because it ends the personnel guessing game and turns workers into tangible capital assets capital assets n. equipment, property, and funds owned by a business. (See: capital, capital account)  who add real value to the organization. For employees, who rightfully complain that they don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 what skills are required on the job and that they have no way of knowing if their training will help them get these skills, skill standards would give them something to aim for. Skill standards will provide a clear set of expectations, and a portable credential that verifies their achievement of certain skills.

President Kennedy used to say that the best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining. No one denies that the sun is shining on our economy today. But our competitors abroad have shopfloors and offices full of skilled workers, and they're ready to bounce back from their current downturn and seize the economic initiative away from us. If we want to preserve our leadership and remain the most productive economy in the world, we need a perpetual and ready pool of skilled workers. Skill standards can help to ensure that.

Editors Note: Some progress toward the development of skills standards in metalworking has resulted from the work of a consortium of eight metalworking trade organizations, along with several national labor organizations, a council of state governors, metalworking companies and educators. In 1995 the National Institute for Metalworking Skills Inc, (NIMS NIMS National Incident Management System (US Department of Homeland Security)
NIMS National Institute for Materials Science (Japan)
NIMS Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer
), a non-profit organization aimed at the development of a skilled workforce for the metalworking industry was formed. For more information from the National Institute for Metalworking Skill Inc, PO Box 787, Vienna, VA 22183, phone: 703-2811610; fax: 703-938-4342; e-mail: nims@nims-skill.org; or visit: http://www.nims.skills.org.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Houghton, James R.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jan 1, 1998
Words:920
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