Employers complain, but don’t train

Employers complain they can’t find skilled workers, but they’re demanding too much and refusing to train new workers, a management professor writes.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Manufacturers can’t find skilled workers with math, science training.

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Comments

  1. It seems fairly obvious that employers should only have to train workers in things unique to their business. They shouldn’t have to train them to read, write or do high school math.

  2. Nor should they have to train employees in basic school/work/life skills like dressing appropriately, being polite, being on time and reliable, working hard, doing the job properly and avoiding inappropriate behaviors (using personal media on work time etc.). Like the academic knowledge mentioned above, such behaviors should have been taught, both at home and at school, before HS graduation.

  3. I would agree with the above comments. If you talk to most entry level employers, they’d like to see employees actually be able to read, write, follow instructions, and actually show up on time for work. If work is scheduled to start at 9:00AM, you don’t show up at 9:30AM (or later), etc.

  4. tim-10-ber says:

    Maybe the reason manufacturers cannot find qualified workers is because true voc-tech has been poo-pooed away and replaced with the most recent magical fad called academies…

    In my line of work we do train for the job but like everyone else said the employee is expected to have basic skills and abilities but we look for a certain subject matter concentration in college.

  5. Soapbox0916 says:

    I suggested this article to Joanne. Thank you Joanne. I loved this article, it pretty much states what I was trying to say when commenting on an earlier topics of this blog.

    Yes, employers should expect applicants to have basic math and work skills. This article is referring more to employers demanding more and more beyond basic skills for jobs, expecting applicants to have a long list of specialized skills and software knowledge.

    Also, HR departments expecting a 100% match based on keyword searches instead of taking the time to determine who has the basic skills sets to quickly learn the job. HR staff not having enough knowledge of technical experience to understand when an applicant has something equivalent to what they are looking for, so many great applications get rejected.

    I have more experience with STEM graduates, and almost all recent STEM graduates that I know of are struggling and not getting STEM jobs despite being bright and hardworking. I am confident that at least the ones I know personally have the basic math skills and job skills that employers say they are looking for. I started to realize that there is something else going on when it comes to job shortages for STEM jobs beyond the number of STEM graduates.

    I realize my viewpoint get skewed on STEM jobs because I live in a region that recently lost a huge amount of STEM jobs, but I had assumed that STEM graduates in other regions of the county were doing well. However, as I have reached out to research STEM graduates for a blog I plan to start soon, I am finding a whole lot of frustrated STEM graduates across the county, especially recent STEM graduates that cannot launch in this current economy. I know a few here have commented that they know recent STEM graduates that are doing well, I am glad to hear that, but I think there is a lot of regional variation with STEM, and a mixture of experiences.

    While I really do believe that employers are having trouble filling STEM jobs, it is not primarily due to a shortage of overall STEM graduates. There is something else going on. So while for example a recent chemical engineering graduate with a strong interest in petroleum is getting rejected or ignored by employers, there are employers desperate for petroleum engineers that have HR departments that are rejecting viable applications because the keywords or some artificial criteria don’t match up exactly.

    There was a followup to this article by the author. The author shared one of his favorite emails:
    “My favorite email came from somebody in a company that had 25,000 applicants for an engineering position and the staffing people said none of them were qualified. Could that really be possible?”

    Check out the comments to this article, there are over 400 comments, and they are fascinating to read.

    One comment from John Mcintosh:
    “My son is an junior mechanical engineer, and the HR folks should be taken out back and shot. After a few hundred resumes fed to the software robot that can’t find a human to fold paper, he started demanding to talk to humans. This led to irritated HR folks telling him don’t call us, just place your resume in the shredder… He did locate a job via an friend who knew a corporate secretary 1000 miles away who couldn’t understand why they couldn’t find a engineer, ‘any’ engineer to come in as a consultant to work on a Gas Plant project they were franticly trying to staff. Secretary (1) HR dept (0)…”

    I also liked this coment from Loyd Eskildson :
    “My experience in the trucking industry is that the problem is not lack of qualified applicants. Five years ago companies would hire most anyone with a decent safety record and a modicum of driving experience in any type of truck. Training would be provided. Now they want a perfect safety record and 5 years experience in the particular type of truck they have – dump, tank, doubles, flatbed, van, reefer, rolloff, pneumatic, whatever”.

  6. Mark Roulo says:

    HR staff not having enough knowledge of technical experience to understand when an applicant has something equivalent to what they are looking for, so many great applications get rejected.

    Blame the non-HR idiot who wrote the job-req. I’ve been involved in hiring STEM folks (I’m a programmer, but not a manager) for over a decade. My group(s) always write our requirements defensively so that HR does not accidentally screen out plausible candidates. We’d rather go through 3× as many resumes than risk losing good candidates.

    I have more experience with STEM graduates, and almost all recent STEM graduates that I know of are struggling and not getting STEM jobs despite being bright and hardworking. I am confident that at least the ones I know personally have the basic math skills and job skills that employers say they are looking for. I started to realize that there is something else going on when it comes to job shortages for STEM jobs beyond the number of STEM graduates.

    And I can help here, too, because I’ve been doing University recruiting for the last few years.

    One problem is that a lot of companies are hunkering down right now. Those without a job are in a bad place. This is similar to 2001-2004 after the dot-com bubble burst, but more wide spread.

    Another fundamental problem is that the typical recent graduate resume sucks. A lot.

    Little of this is the fault of the students, as the helpful suggestions that they are getting from their career centers are often actively harmful. Some examples:

    (1) The resume does not need to be a single piece of paper. Really. The things will likely come in electronically, and I can read more than one page. What *IS* critical is to put the most important stuff at the *top* as if I’ve read a full page and am not interested yet, I won’t keep reading. But the resume can certainly be longer than one page.

    (2) In fact, I’d like it to be longer than one page because I would like some f-ing details. The career centers seem to be suggesting to the students that they keep their resumes bland (don’t go into details like project size and timing results because it isn’t relevant to the job!). Well, bland enough and all I know is that you took some classes (with course names, but no idea of the content!) and passed them. Yep, you and 100 of your classmates

    (3) I’d also like to see complete sentences on resumes. The current standard seems to be to write lots of short sentence fragments and then claim “excellent written and verbal communication skills.” Well, you know what? You had my attention for a full page of text and totally failed to show these excellent communication skills. I’d be delighted to see a coherent paragraph.

    Then we get to actual resume content.

    Another reason that the resumes suck is that many of the students haven’t done anything except for class work for 4 (or 5) years. Or at least they don’t mention anything except for course work. For petroleum engineering this is kinda understandable. But I hire programmers.

    You *want* to code, but didn’t code up anything on your own time in the last five years? Really? The rare student who actually has done something on his/her own time really stands out because it *shows* actual interest (and for recent college grads a lot of what we are hiring is enthusiasm).

    It would be nice if someone could explain to these kids when they are freshmen that they are more likely to get hired if they don’t look EXACTLY THE SAME AS EVERYONE ELSE … on paper.

    As one of my background tasks I’m trying to write up a “please make your resumes looks like this” document to send to the career centers of the universities that my company works with. But this is low priority and is moving slowly.

  7. Mark Roulo says:

    Continuing …

    Once we get to the interview, there is another pretty common failure: Many of the recent college graduates do not seem to know how to program. Or at least can’t show me on a white board how they would go after a pretty straightforward problem.

    I understand that they are nervous, and I try to take this into account. I mostly don’t care about syntax and even medium sized errors. Those can/will/would be corrected later in real life. But a large portion of the problem, I think, is that they have majored in computer science, not in programming. And they didn’t get good at programming on their own time. Exposure to lots of languages, but competence/mastery of none.

    Many of the jobs I’m trying to fill require programming skills.

    Now, we *ARE* willing to train in a given language (except for C++ … the ramp up on this is just too long), but I do want to see that the person I’m interviewing can program decently in *some* language. Any language. My assumption is that if they can do it in one language, they can learn another. But if they have graduated and still can’t program? Do I risk hiring them or keep looking?

    Often, my conclusion is that they have experience hacking together projects (and, given the amount of group work, I can’t even be sure how much hacking they did …), but the idea that they would write something [even a small something] and have it work … for a lot of them this is foreign.

    Not all of them, of course.

    I’ve interviewed recent college graduates who seem to know how to program and who have demonstrated (not just claimed) some interest/passion in the field. But this is the exception, not the rule :-(

  8. Soapbox0916 says:

    @Mark,

    Really great advice. If you don’t mind I would like to use some of your advice when I finally get my own STEM related blog going. Being realistic, due to the holidays it will probably be closer to the first of the year before I officially start. I had meant to already start the blog, but the research I gathered in preparation for my blog has been very different from what I expected, so I have decided to shift the focus of my blog, and do some more research. I will let you and everyone know when I launch.

  9. Mark Roulo says:

    Soapbox0916,

    Use away!

    -Mark R.