I’m certainly not a fan of all of Gov. John Kasich’s policies, including the “frack, baby, frack” approach he’s followed with Ohio’s shale deposits. But fair is fair: in an announcement today, Kasich told Ohio businesses that the so-called skills gap they’ve been complaining about is a shared problem, and if they want to see a higher-quality labor force, they’re going to need to get involved with the State to help develop skills in time for their eventual demand.
I’d actually take this a step further, in fact. I believe that in an awful lot of cases, businesses are looking for super-specific skill sets, where they’d really be far better off to look at broad aptitudes combined with a personality, work ethic, and determination to gain specific skills as needed.
Why? When you shop for specific skills only, those skills are useful only as long as those specific needs remain static. Upgrade a machine or even software, and your workforce now needs to either learn new skills or be replaced with a workforce that’s presumably already been trained on those new skills.
A cynic might observe at this point that businesses that continually shop for specific skills only looks an awful lot like a business that wants workers that someone else has trained (without paying for it) over and over again. That’s not fair, either. Paul Krugman pointed out yesterday that if businesses were really looking for specific skills, you’d expect, all things being equal, that employees with those skills would be seeing big pay hikes, and we’re not seeing a whole lot of that.
So, yes, business leaders — if you want an effective work force, you really need to consider the sort of skills you’re going to need in five, ten, even 20 years, and think about what you’re doing to help build that pipeline. If you’re successful, by the way, you’ll also wind up with a serious competitive advantage compared to the folks that aren’t doing that sort of forecasting.