When it comes to bridging the gap between available workers and available jobs, one thing is certain: it’s complicated.
“What the problem is depends on who you ask,” said Ray Suarez, a senior correspondent at PBS who moderated a panel on Wednesday that kicked off an afternoon of roundtables that included leaders from community colleges, business and industry, government and other stakeholders.
Suarez noted some parties blame K-12 for not instilling the right academic skills in students, while others point at employers, who have pulled away from providing training for their workers. Another faction cites higher education for not analyzing more closely the specific workforce needs in their communities.
The panelists agreed that it’s a mix of all the above. Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Grainger, said companies used to provide the training to upgrade their workers’ skills. That’s now a dying practice.
However, it’s crucial for businesses to find ways to ensure that their workers are upgrading their skills in order to be competitive, Ryan said. Not filling available positions costs companies in the long run through overtime and other related expenses. Add impending retirements to the mix and the problem magnifies.
“This is a matter of competitive survival,” Ryan said. <Read more.>