Article 43


Monday, September 29, 2014

Can’t Find A Qualified US Worker Redux 4


The “Skills Gap” Is a Convenient Myth

By Toni Gilpin
Labor Notes
February 14, 2014

Haven’t seen too many “Help Wanted” signs lately? You haven’t been looking hard enough. At factories across the country, thousands of good jobs are going begging.

If that doesn’t sound quite right to you, take it up with the National Association of Manufacturers. NAM and other industry groups insist at least 600,000 FACORY POSITIONS REMAIN OPEN.

These vacancies are supposed to be the result of a “skills gap” - a shortage of workers with the right stuff for today’s high-tech factories. The gap looms large in high-level discussions of what ails the American economyand it drives much public policy.

"America wants a country that builds things,” SAYS CATERPILLAR CEO DOUG OBERMAN, industry’s leading skills gap spokesman (and board chair of the NAM), “but we have a problem. We dont have the people we need.”

“Politicians of both parties echo this refrain. Businesses cannot find workers with the right skills,” SAYS DEMOCRATIC SENATOR RICK DURBIN, and REPUBLICAN SENATOR BOB PORTMAN AGREES: “Let’s close the skills gap and get Americans working again.”

PRESIDENT OBAMA TOO, MAINTAINS that America’s “manufacturers cannot find enough workers with the proper skills.”

Such bipartisan agreement is reflected in budget priorities. RETRAINING TOO IS A TOUCHSTONE FOR THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE, and since the president took office more than 18 BILLION FEDERAL DOLLARS have gone to job training programs. Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin recently committed $8.5 million TO TRAINING.

Although unemployment remains high, the political focus has shifted away from creating new jobs. Instead its on retooling our education system to align with the skilled positions said to be already out there.

Just one hitch: there’s little evidence a “skills gap” exists.


A HOST OF ACADEMIC STUDIES have DEBUNKED THE NOTION - but you don’t need a Ph.D. to figure it out. You just need to recognize the law of supply and demand.

“It’s hard not to break out laughing,” ONE ECONOMIST NOTED recently. “If there’s a skills shortage, there has to be rises in wages [for skilled workers]. It’s basic economics.”

Yet wages in manufacturing - even for skilled workers - are STAGNANT AT BEST.

Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School of Business, hears frequent complaints from MANUFACTURERS CLAIMING THEY CAN’T FIND ENOUGH MACHINISTS. “Yet,” CAPPELLI NOTES, “the pay for those positions has dropped 20 percent in real terms over the past 20 years, while skill requirements for many of those jobs have indeed risen.”

Studies from ILLINOIS and WISCONSIN on welding jobs - where employers often cite shortages of available workers - demonstrate that welders wages, as well, have decreased over the past decade, and there are thousands more unemployed welders looking for work than there are projected openings.

When skilled slots do go unfilled, it’s because EMPLOYERS SEEK HIGH-VALUE WORKERS AT DISCOUNT RATES.

“We’ve probably all seen the TV shows where new homebuyers go out to look for a new house,” CAPPELLI SAYS, “and they always are shocked to discover they cannot get what they wanted at the price they want to pay. The real estate agent never concludes the problem is a housing shortage. The buyers have to learn either to pay more or expect less. Is that happening with employers? It does not appear to be.”

When pressed, ONE MANUFACTURING CEO ACKNOWLEDGED that for him, “the skills gap meant an inability to find enough highly qualified applicants, with no union-type experience, willing to start at $10 an hour.”

THAT’S NOT A SKILLS MISMATCH OR EVEN A LABOR SHORTAGE PROBLEM in any meaningful sense,” Marc Levine, professor of history and economic development at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, makes clear. “That’s an EFFORT to secure cheap and docile labor."</b>

“National data on wages, hours, the ‘job gap’ (the ratio of job seekers to available openings), and the skills requirements of projected job openings reveal no evidence of a skills mismatch in national labor markets,” LEVINE SAYS.


In fact, the real deficit we face is a jobs gap. There are still many more unemployed Americans, across every sector of our economy, than there are positions to put them in. “Unemployment is high,” one analyst notes, “not because workers lack the right education or skills, but because employers have not seen demand for their goods and services pick up enough to need to significantly ramp up hiring.”

It is not the right workers we are lacking, it is work.

TRAINING DOESN’T CREATE JOBS,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “Jobs create training. And people get that backwards all the time.”

Economist PAUL KURGMAN STATES BLUNTLY that “claims of a skills gap provide cover for those powerful forces [that] are ideologically opposed to the whole idea of government action on a sufficient scale to jump-start the economy.”


Cat CEO Oberhelman CASTIGATED THE COUNTRY’S “FAILING” SCHOOLS for not turning out fully employable products” and FAULTS AMERICANS not pursuing the rewarding careers he says are available in today’s factories.

STORIES LIKE THIS ONE, from a Wisconsin professor, don’t make it into Oberhelman’s script:

Take my former student, John. He did everything we ask young workers to do, earning two journeyman cards while working and attending Milwaukee Area Technical College full-time.

John left Briggs when it began moving jobs to low-wage states and Mexico. But his new employer, Rockwell, began outsourcing to nonunion, low-wage plants even before it eliminated all hourly workers last year.

So John started over again at Harley-Davidson. But, a year and a half ago, Harley laid John off.

CEOs like Oberhelman create the hype about a skills gap and then use it to duck responsibility for the joblessness they are responsible for.

The blame and the costs are offloaded onto workers, obliged to bankroll their own training, or onto taxpayers, as public schools and community colleges scramble to make their graduates more employable.


It’s hypocritical, to put it mildly, for employers to bemoan the shortage of skilled labor while they lay off workers (including skilled ones) and pay less to those they retain. But their whining deflects attention from record profits and lavish executive compensation.

A recent example comes courtesy of BOEING CEO JIM McNERNEY HAS SAD the U.S. faces an acute “competitive gap” brought on by “insufficient numbers of capable workers.”

Nonetheless, BOEING recently threatened its highly skilled (and unionized) workforce in Everett, Washington, that the company would move its new 777X plane out of state if workers didnt take concessions. THEY GAVE IN.

Capable workers were not Boeing’s goal. Cheap and compliant ones are what the company was after. Reflect for a moment about which sort of people you prefer to build the airplanes you travel in.

So, while the fictional skills gap provides a distraction useful to CEOs and politicians, workers (and taxpayers) should keep focused on what matters most: our EVER-RISING LEVEL OF INCOME INEQUALITY.

That’s the gap that needs minding.

Who Foots the Bill?

While employers bemoan a skills gap, they’re not putting up their own money to close it. Just the opposite. Manufacturers provide far less on-the-job training than they once did.

APPRENTICESHIPS - which oblige employers to assume the lions share of training costs - have fallen 40 percent since 2008. The decline of America’s machine-tool industry, for instance, can be attributed to the collapse of the apprenticeship system.

There’s just one time when companies do eagerly foot the bill for job training: when it serves to undermine the position of union labor.

Last summer, anticipating a possible strike, Caterpillar placed 25 of its non-union employees into the welding program at a Milwaukee community college. Protests by the Steelworkers, who represent workers at Cats South Milwaukee plant, were brushed off.

Just before contract negotiations began, Cat laid off some 300 Milwaukee workers - including skilled welders.

Cat’s hardball tactics resulted in a six-year agreement with frozen pay and way lower wages for new hires.


Employers have also used state-funded training programs to ensure that workers with the wrong kind of experienceגthat is, a union backgroundare kept out of their plants.

In Georgia, taxpayer dollars were used to build a training center for the plant where the Kia Optima is built. Instruction there is provided through the state’s Quick Start program, designed to meet the demand for skilled manufacturing workers.

Jobseekers at the non-union Kia plant are required to go through the centers pre-employment process, and nearly all of Kia’s more than 3,000 employees were trained in robotics, welding, and electronics.

In the process, though, workers already skilled in exactly those areas - members of the United Auto Workers - were evidently weeded out.

When Kia began production in 2010, not one of its employees came from among the pool of thousands of experienced auto workers, all UAW members, whod lost their jobs when Georgia’s GM and Ford plants closed a few years earlier.

A group of UAW members sued to obtain records on the states involvement in Kia’s hiring practices, but their request was rejected by the Georgia Supreme Court.



Why Employers Are to Blame for the Skills Gapђ

By Rob Garver,
The Fiscal Times
August 19, 2014

Complaints about a “skills gap” that make it difficult for employers to fill open positions have become commonplace in discussions about the economy and unemployment levels. Workers, the story goes, simply don’t have the educational background or professional training for the kinds of jobs that exist in today’s knowledge economy.

The argument certainly feels like it makes sense - things have changed an awful lot in the past decade, and it could be that older workers simply don’t have the necessary skills for employment today.

The trouble is that economists have become increasingly skeptical about the skills gap narrative, not least of all because of the absence of real wage inflation. After all, if skilled workers were in high demand but short supply, the laws of economics suggest they would be able to demand, and get, higher wages.

A new PAPER by PETER CAPPELLI, a professor at the Wharton Schools Center for Human Resources, should help solve the puzzle of the skills gap. In a comprehensive survey of the literature on the subject, Cappelli reports little hard evidence to support the theory. He notes that when it comes to workers’ skills, the most pervasive problem in the U.S. right now is that many individuals are working jobs for which they are overqualified.

He suggests that what is really driving the discussion about worker skills is a combination of employers seeking to hold down payroll costs by keeping wages as low as possible - and a longer-term effort to transfer responsibility for training workers from employers themselves to the taxpayer.

“The evidence driving the complaints about skills does not necessarily appear where labor market experts might expect to see it, such as in rising wages,” Cappelli writes. “Instead, it comes directly from employers - typically from surveys - who report difficulties hiring the kind of workers they need. The assertions explaining their reported difficulties center on the idea that the academic achievement of high school [graduates] is inadequate or that there are not enough college graduates in practical fields like computer science and ENGINEERING. The recommendations from these reports include increased immigration and use of foreign workers as well as efforts to shape the majors that college students choose.

Numerous economists have noted that when employers raise wages, skilled employees suddenly become easier to find - and Cappelli notes that much of the discussion about a skills gap appears to be driven by employers looking to hire workers on the cheap.

More telling, though, is that Cappelli, who is also the author of the book Why Good People Cant Find Jobs, notes a disinclination among employers to train existing workers; he says they look instead to hire individuals who already possess a specific skill set. In many cases, he finds, the business community is pushing the public sector to provide the sort of training that workers used to receive through apprentice programs, professional development programs and other on-the-job training.

“The view that emerges from these arguments is one where responsibility for developing the skills that employers want is transferred from the employer onto job seekers and schools,” he writes. “Such a transfer of responsibility would be profound in its implications.”

“While increased training programs could reduce businesses’costs,” Cappelli notes, “the end result is likely to be a less efficient system in which key job-related skills are necessarily left out.”

“Schools, at least as traditionally envisioned, are not suited to organize work experience, the key attribute that employers want,” he writes. “Nor are they necessarily good at teaching work-based skills. Those skills are easiest and cheapest to learn in the workplace through APPRENTICE-LIKE ARRANGEMENTS that one finds not only in skilled trades but also in fields like accounting and medicine.”

“Unlike in the classroom,” he continues, “problems to practice on do not have to be created in the workplace. They exist already, and solving them creates value for others. Observation and practice is also easiest to do where the productive work is being done, and employment creates incentives and motivation that typical classrooms cannot duplicate.”

Cappelli closes with a message for the research community. “The myth of the skills gap,” he says, “only exists because, in the absence of hard data on the issue, advocates of a particular position find it easy to make claims that are simply assertions and claims that even casual acquaintance with real evidence would indicate are false.”



In May of 2013 we had 16,944,480 STEM jobs in America.

2,107,070 of them are Software jobs in America.

If a person were to study the LCA Applications for temporary workers to be brought in under a H-1B visa, you quickly realize that 65% of them are for these software jobs in America.

During the years from 2001 to 2013 we issued anywhere between a low of 339,243 to a high of 494,565 of these H-1B visas.

The H-1B visa currently is capped at 65,000 for the regular visa and an additional 20,000 for advanced educated visa holders.

The difference between the visas issued and the 85,000 visa cap is the amount of visa renewals each year.

This means that we had a low of 220,508 to a high of 321,467 renewals for Software Jobs alone if we multiply the visas issued by 65%

Keep in mind that there were only 2,107,070 of these Software Jobs in America AND these renewals are for periods of three years which could easily account for a million jobs or more.

As you can see, Americans are slowly getting forced out of the software portion of the STEM industry.

And the ones I have heard from are saying something along these lines:

Most people, even family, just don’t get it.  This is not like unemployment in the past.  In my early 20s, I tried every sort of job for around 4 years or so.  I could always get another job maybe not a great one - but I was never out of work for any long stretches.  Thats what’s different now you can’t get another job and get back control of your own life no matter what you do.  Some employed people may be sympathetic to a degree, but they really dont see it (and maybe don’t want to see it) for what it really is the end of working and making a decent living, and the end of financial independence.  And you’re NOT going to get a job at Mac Donalds or Target or the local supermarket because the Latinos etc already have it.  You’re NOT going to join the young baristas at Starbucks or the waiters and waitresses at Chili’s because all the college kids and recent graduates who cant get good jobs anywhere else are already working there.  The low-end, low-pay jobs are all taken and the professional jobs are being given to cheaper foreign workers.

Is high tech’s current treatment of American STEM professionals just a pilot project for some future nation-wide screwing of nearly all American professional men and women?  I dont know, but should anyone really be surprised if it is?  There’s only way that most people will wake up when it happens to them when they lose their jobs and their incomes and lifestyles.  Then they’ll be shocked and outraged and demand that something be done.  But as long as its just 20-25 million of their fellow Americans including hundreds of thousands of displaced STEM professionals, who cares?  What’s that old saying?  When they came for all the others, I didnt care because I didn’t know any of them, but by the time they came for me there was nobody left to care.

Many of you will be in denial and say this is not happening.

Those of us that have been through it know for a fact that it is happening.

Many of you may be immigrants, or the sons and daughters of immigrants.

I too am of German descent.

I will always believe we need to be a country where people can immigrate to America and become and American if that is what they want to do.

Just like your family or my family did.

And I will always believe that they should be able to apply for any job that their skills allow them to strive for just as I believe Americans should be allowed to do the same.


Bringing in temporary workers to displace Americans in America where Americans are being forced to train their replacements is not immigration.

It simply is the very same tactics that were used by corporations to break union picket lines by using scabs.

Which leaves us in a position where we can be silent and slowly but surely be forced out of our high paying jobs by temporary workers brought in for less money and find that there are no similar or better paying jobs to be had.

Or we can band together and begin to educate our fellow citizens via radio and tv ads so that their children, and our children will still have the opportunity to strive for the moon if that is their goal.

My thoughts on how to do this are simple, and I֒m willing to step aside and join myself if anybody has a better plan:

1.Annual dues of $20.00

2.The money will be used to air radio and tv ads and to provide subsistence level work for our unemployed STEM workers until we can find them work again.

By that, I mean that we would hire them at $600 per week and use their skills to do the research and development that is necessary to build our knowledge base and educate our fellow citizens and to contact our employers, both large and small to help educate them as to what is happening and why it is bad for the future of America, and most importantly, work with these employers to get our members back to work so that they can provide for their families.

I am but one man.

My resources are limited, and I cant get this message in front of 16 million STEM workers, but all of us working together can do exactly that.

It really is that simple.

Are you wondering if you are considered a STEM worker?

You might be surprised that you are, and you can verify it by clicking on THIS LINK.

United We Stand

Divided We Fall

I want to get back to work and stay at work as an American in America.

Do you?


Posted by Elvis on 09/29/14 •
Section Dying America
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