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Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It Paperback – May 29, 2012
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Explodes the 'skills gap' explanation favored by many corporate leaders and human resources consultants."
Jena McGregor, The Washington Post
Peter Cappelli’s new book addresses one of today’s major conundrums: why do so many jobs in America remain unfilled in the face of persistently high unemployment? With so many concerned observers looking to the government to solve the jobs crisis, Cappelli’s book is a refreshing and highly readable treatise on the roles and responsibilities of the private sector in matching job seekers to jobs. A must-read for those interested in how to get US employment back on track.”
Jennifer Blanke, Lead Economist, World Economic Forum
Peter Cappelli has produced a valuable and very readable examination of the important, but often misunderstood, skills gap problem. He punctures many common myths and outlines a sensible way to better match the demand for, and supply of, skills.”
Ray Marshall, Rapoport Centennial Chair of Economics and Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, and Former Secretary of Labor
It is high time to dismiss a silo approach to education and workforce and focus on the overall objective of these efforts, which is ensuring that every American has access to a training mechanism that will allow them to maximize their human potential. Such an approach requires greater engagement of corporate human resource departments, training providers and government leaders. Bravo to Dr. Cappelli for highlighting the importance of taking a supply chain approach to worker training and public-private partnerships.”
Cordell Carter, Former Vice President, Public Policy, Business Roundtable
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In "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs" Peter Cappelli lays out how we've gotten here, not emotionally and certainly not as an issue of rich vs. poor, liberal vs. conservative, or Democrat vs. Republican as recent books about our current problems tend to do. Cappelli--a management professor at The Wharton School and director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources--is in a unique position to see what's different today than what happened when emerging from recessions in 1991 and 2001. This book is a very fast read because it is to-the-point and clearly presented.
Adapting to the global economy and having a glut of labor from the baby boom generation, Cappelli says, has the changed the expectations of employers. A confluence of events has resulted in a new system that has changed the hiring process and the way new hires are trained to do their jobs:
* HR departments--once existing largely to confront labor issues and unions--gradually downsized as those issues faded away.
* With fewer HR people, employers needed more convenient ways to recruit and handle job descriptions and applications which the Internet has provided.
* Application processing software enabled automated reviews of applications, targeting exact requirements and spitting out applications that were not a perfect match.
* As people were let go and jobs were combined, job descriptions started to look for people who had never existed before. And hiring managers added even more requirements to minimize the risk of failure.
* It has become easier and less risky to leave some vacancies open than to hire people who almost certainly lack the skills for these new super jobs.
This is technology enabling new behaviors that have met the needs of employers but at the detriment not just of job applicants and new employees but mostly to the employers themselves. Cappelli describes how many companies are very aware of how much their jobs are costing them but not so sure about how their profit and cost centers--much less their individual jobs--actually contribute to their revenues. So when they lose people, they can convince themselves that they don't really need to replace those people and their tasks get redistributed to other employees or just don't get done at all. The end result is that the remaining employees get burned out (and quit themselves), new projects get delayed, expansion activities get postponed, etc.
My favorite quote in the book was "There is the simple fact that every generation believes it has experienced profound technological changes, perhaps because it was not around to witness the truly unprecedented changes of previous generations. Imagine witnessing the rise of widely available electricity, telephones, and automobiles--all in the same decade. We are constantly reminded that we live during the computer-driven Information Revolution, but there is no evidence that the current period represents one of unusual changes in technology. Likewise, no data or statistics convincingly support the claim that our job seekers are remarkably unprepared for the future, whatever it may be." It's interesting that the decade Cappelli is describing here (the 1920's) preceded the Depression. Is it a coincidence that our Information Revolution led us into what some now call the Great Recession? Did our innovations and belief in technology force us to get ahead of ourselves in a similar fashion?
In the last chapter Cappelli focuses on different training scenarios that could balance the risk between employers and employees in a job environment where there is bound to be more jockeying for position as companies and employees alike start to plan their careers and take or turn down jobs based on long-term future opportunities. "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs" shows that the path to more acceptable levels of employment is a little more complicated than the emotional arguments we're hearing in the media. Figuring out ways to involve employers and employees; to set up job training programs in-house, in community colleges and tech programs; to engage state and local governments; and to understand how job vacancies are really holding back our companies will lead to new programs that will eventually start to turn things around. Read this book to see the jobs issue in a much more realistic light.
Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions for the problem. If you are a job seeker, you will not get advice on how to get a job (except to work on matching the job description as much as possible.) Employers would do well to take a closer look at "almost" matches to see if they could do the job, and to offer some training for job skills that are needed. It was interesting, well-researched, and easy to read. I can see this being useful for business classes or HR employees.