Data Point #11: Talent optimism vs. realism

We’re surrounded by all kinds of data points about the talent/skill shortage.  I wrote about it here and here.  Today we have two data points:  one comes from SHRM’s Q2 2012 Jobs Outlook Survey Report and the second comes from the BLS 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

SHRM’s Jobs Outlook Survey has some interesting data from a small sample of its 250,000+ members.  (This particular survey was sent to 3,000 randomly selected SHRM members with 336 members responding, for an 11% response rate.)  These quarterly JOS surveys ask HR professionals interesting questions about optimism in job growth, planned changes in total staff levels, categories of workers companies will hire and categories of workers most difficult to hire in the previous quarter.

I was particularly interested in the responses to the question asking which categories of workers were most difficult to hire in the 1st Quarter of this year.  The sample is small (n=246), so the data are directional at best, but do line up with other data sources.

This data is congruent with BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) data relative to education level attainment and the corresponding unemployment rates in April.  The higher the unemployment rate, the lower the difficulty to hire:

  • Less than high school:                                   12.5%
  • High school no college:                                  7.9%
  • Some college or Associate degree:               7.6%
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher:                         4.0%

In other words, it’s more difficult to find skilled professionals and managers in this job market because there are fewer of them unemployed and there are fewer of them overall.  It’s easier to find service workers and unskilled manual workers because more of them are unemployed and there are more of them overall.

But still, as the SHRM report highlights, employers are having difficulty in hiring at all levels.  Which makes me wonder:  are we being unnecessarily restrictive in our job specifications?  Are we hiring people with college degrees when an associate degree would suffice?  Are we requiring associate degrees when a high school degree would be adequate?  I don’t know the answer, but considering the data is interesting.

The Occupation Outlook Handbook, published by the BLS, shows the projected job growth by education category in the 2010-2020 decade:

While the number of jobs created in this decade that will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher is predicted to be nearly 5 million, the number of jobs predicted to be created requiring some college/no degree or less is nearly 13 million.

So if the key to employment (and financial) security for the average worker is a Bachelor’s degree, but the greatest numbers of jobs being created in the next decade won’t require a Bachelor’s degree, how do we reconcile this as employers?

Do we hire college educated workers for jobs that only require a high school diploma?  Are we already doing that now?

Do we work to raise the general level of worker education because we believe it’s the key to global competitiveness?

Do we encourage students to enroll in career and technical education programs in and after high school rather than college because those are the skills needed in the economy?

The data around employers having difficulty finding the talent/skills they need isn’t as simple as it looks.  It’s actually quite challenging.  Under every layer of data is another layer of data.  Solving our talent attraction and acquisition needs won’t be solved with one tactic. But it’s a safe bet that solving our talent challenges will include strengthening relationships between employers and the education infrastructure to produce the skills our economy really needs.

As I look at the data, the optimist in me says we’re covered over in opportunity.  The realist in me says we’ve got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time in which to do it.



Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Demographics, Education Deficit, Employment Data, HR, Post-secondary education, SHRM, Talent Management, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor, Uncategorized, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

7 responses to “Data Point #11: Talent optimism vs. realism

  1. Pingback: Big Trouble in the Talent Pipeline |

  2. China, I would submit also that many of the candidates for the managerial and skilled professional jobs are in the over 40 years of age category and some companies are more reluctant to hire those older workers. In those cases they are creating their own problems by refusing to look at that pool of qualified candidates.

    • Hi Jerry: thanks for reading and commmenting. I agree. There are many overlooked pools of qualified candidates: workers over 50, returning military veterans, etc. It’s a mystery to me why employers who are having difficulty filling open positions are not more focused on skills and qualifications rather than other “limiting” factors!

      • Because that’s the way they’ve always done it. To your earlier point, employers have got to develop the courage and foresight to stop requiring college degrees when not necessary and instead focus on skills and experience. Unless one is in a highly specialized field where the degree is absolutely necessary, the farther away from graduation day you get in your career, the less relevant the degree becomes.

  3. Yeah! Data Tuesday! Peter Cappelli writes about this (a little) — he believes that we do a disservice to an already broken labor market when we emphasize certain skills (“a bachelor’s degree”) instead of hiring for general aptitude and potential and TRAINING those new employees to overcome any perceived deficits from a lack of a bachelor’s degree.

    • I’m really torn because I do believe that education is the ticket to personal economic stability. And to national competitiveness. But education isn’t education. We NEED people to go to vocational/technical schools and do apprenticeships. You and I have talked about this. The basic infrastructure of our nation is fraying at the edges because we bought the argument in the ’70s that because we were in the Information Age everyone needed a college degree to make a good living. The truth is that there are great, family sustaining jobs that we need to have done that don’t require a college degree. But they DO require technical training and certificates or apprenticeship completion. And we need people to want those jobs, to train for those jobs, and to be proud to have those jobs. We have to re-set our thinking about what a “good job” is and encourage people to train for those jobs. And employers have to stop requiring college degrees when they really don’t need them. Going forward, they’re going to have train and retrain their workforce anyway… Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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