The job market is really tough today, and I do not see it getting better anytime soon.
In case I was not clear, I’m talking from the employer’s perspective – not the individual looking for a job. A recent survey by Yoh, a workforce solutions company found that while 80% of major US employers expect to increase their hiring in 2013 over 2012:
- 81% of companies believe that finding the top performers is the most important criteria.
- 91% have found it difficult to find and recruit qualified professionals.
- Only 31% of companies use social media as a key component of their recruiting strategy.
- 25% do not use social media at all for recruiting, including for posting positions.
I heard a segment on NPR about thousands of manufacturing jobs open today in Pennsylvania that the companies cannot fill. Unfortunately, I cannot find the transcript of the show, but it nicely supported what I have heard anecdotally from hiring managers. The jobs are there, but the workers aren’t. It is very difficult to find people who can read and follow directions, show up on time, and pass the drug test. Each part seems to be equally hard to find. The drug test is because of safety. Many manufacturing jobs involve things moving, high heat, and interesting chemicals. Even with all of the safety devices, the key component of safety remains the alertness of every employee.
For the positions that I have been trying to fill over the past 40 years, I need to add one more requirement: the candidate must be able to write. I don’t necessarily want a poet or a novelist, but I need people who can put coherent thoughts on paper that deliver a clear, concise and unambiguous message. The type of document ranges widely from marketing material to technical documents, from short emails to many hundreds of pages, and with a shelf life measured in hours or years. Often this last attribute, how long the document has to be useful, is forgotten. For a status report, it may be just for the next hour, for a technical manual or legal document, perhaps for 20 years.
In April, the BBC published “The Great British Class Survey – Results.” Britain tends to be a very class-conscious society. This survey of over 160,000 people looked at class from a multi-dimensional view, looking at the “capital” that each person possesses in the areas of economic, culture, and social resources. Previously surveys just looked at the job that the individual does. This survey found there are now seven classes in British society:
Highest capital in each of the three areas, with a very high amount of economic capital that differentiates them.
- Established Middle Class:
High capital in each of the three areas, but not as high as Elites; the largest and most gregarious group, and culturally engaged.
- Technical Middle Class:
New, and fairly small, class: high economic capital but low scores for culture and social capital. Distinguished by social isolation and cultural apathy.
- New Affluent Workers:
Medium levels of economic capital, but higher levels of cultural and social capital; primarily a young and active class.
- Emergent Service Workers:
New class with low economic capital but high levels of cultural and social capital; young and often urban.
- Traditional Working Class:
Scores low in all three capitals, but not the lowest group; average age is older than the others.
Very low levels of all three capitals. Their everyday life is precarious (thus the class name).
The Traditional Working Class is getting smaller. A sobering 15% were in the Precariat.
Where do you fit? And does it matter? While British and American societies differ in many ways, I suspect these results offer some value to looking at the American workforce.
As the traditional middle class shrinks, it forces a very few to the Elite, the majority into the New Affluent Workers and Emergent Service Workers classes, and far too many into the Precariats.
Frankly, the young ones are doomed if we don’t fix some serious problems in the US. While generalizations do not apply to everybody, here are few simplifications to think about.
- Social media encourages people to concentrate on “now.” I can talk to my friend now, tweet my followers about where I am and what I am doing now. If I want something, I can get it now. In many cases, “now” is so busy that I can’t think about tomorrow.
- Parents are abrogating their responsibility. Too many parents are too busy with their own “now” or desire to never say “no” to their little darlings that the child never learns restraint. The parents “now” includes keeping the family economically afloat; difficult enough in these times and almost impossible if one or more are un- or under-employed.
- Public schools have given up on educating their customers. I firmly believe that we should educate each child to its maximum potential and give the child the most life options. Yet programs like “No child left behind” and the dumbing down of course material along with the proliferation of “standardized tests” has led to many students graduating from high school and unable to read at even a third grade level.
I think this explains why employers cannot find candidates who can read and follow directions, show up on time, and pass a drug test.
As to writing, the young just are never given a chance. Tweets, emails, and the excuse for writing exercises given in school never provide the right kind of feedback or experience to deliver a clear, concise and unambiguous message. As the people I work with get, on average, younger, I am amazed at the lousy writing that I am presented. I get at least once a month an email from a professional that I have to respond, “Was that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’?” I was recently given a paper by a student with a fresh MBA. After reading it, I had no idea what it was about or what he wanted me to do with it. Fortunately, I have a shredder.
Out of a dozen résumés that I look at, I am pleasantly surprised if I get two that do not have obvious grammatical or spelling errors, or is written so badly it is difficult to figure out what the individual has actually done. Since the purpose of a résumé, from the employer’s perspective, is to eliminate the candidate from consideration, this sloppiness astounds me. But it does significantly reduce the number of candidates to be considered.
And if your child is restricting his or her job choice to what they find via social media, they are missing out on a lot of opportunities.
You may not be able to fix the problem nationwide, but perhaps you can fix the problem one child, one neighborhood, or one school at a time.
The last word:
It is primary time for local elected officials. Imagine our surprise when an actual candidate showed up at our door. I think she expected to hand us her short pamphlet, give us a big smile, and go away. That does not work at our house, especially for someone running for the school board. As you may have guessed, we both have some thoughts on public education. One of our early questions was if she supported the “Core Curriculum.” She gave us an enthusiastic “yes, or course!” When asked what was in the Core Curriculum, she did not know. She also supported standardized tests, but again did not know what was covered. She was surprised when we told her she was definitely not getting our vote. If you do not know what the Core Curriculum is and you are interested in the results from public education as a parent, employer, or taxpayer I suggest you do some research.
Keep your sense of humor.