America’s Struggle to Fill High-Skill Jobs

U.S. job openings surged to record high levels this year and companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find people with the talents they need.

Today there are more than 6 million vacant jobs that American workers are unable to fill, which is the highest level on record, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, 6.8 million unemployed Americans are looking for a job and the labor force participation rate is 63 percent.

“This represents an enormous challenge,” President Donald Trump’s daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump said during a panel at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit on Oct. 9.

Companies are having trouble finding suitable workers due to a rising skills gap. Hence the U.S. education system has to respond to the needs for current and future jobs, she said.

A recent report by Business Roundtable states, “The United States is experiencing a workforce skills gap that is holding our economy back and threatening our economic future.”

U.S. companies spend $164 billion each year on education and training, but they still cannot generate enough skilled labor, according to the report.

Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump, at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington on Oct. 9, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Ivanka Trump believes the administration’s efforts to expand apprenticeships is a major step toward fixing the workforce problem.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June to increase the number of apprenticeships and reform education and workforce development programs to help address the shortage of skilled workers. The plan intends to ease the regulatory burden on apprenticeship programs and integrate classroom learning with on-the-job training.

According to a U.S. Department of Labor blog, apprenticeship programs provide a greater return for companies. “Economic return on investment has shown that employers gain a return for craft training of as much as $3 to every $1 that is invested,” says the blog.

President Trump also signed a memorandum expanding access to high-quality STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, with a particular focus on computer science. He established a goal of devoting at least $200 million per year for STEM education funding.

The Trump administration is already making a difference, said Marillyn Hewson, chairman, president, and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

“We need to raise awareness,” she said at the panel. “We need to make sure that people can keep up with the changing technology.”

Disruptive technologies have a significant impact on job creation, job displacement, and widening skills gaps. Hence government, businesses, and nonprofits should all come together around this issue, Hewson said.

Impact of Disruptive Change

(L-R) Co-Chair Most Powerful Women International Nina Easton, Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump speak onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington on Oct. 9, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

According to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report, 65 percent of children starting primary school today will eventually end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

“In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate,” stated the WEF report.

Lockheed Martin employs nearly 50,000 scientists, engineers, and IT professionals and has 16,000 suppliers. Hewson said the growing talent shortage is her biggest worry.

The most in-demand occupations or skills at her company she said include autonomy engineers, data analysts, sensor engineers, radio frequency engineers, and advanced manufacturing skills.

Business intelligence, data science, and cybersecurity jobs are also important, according to Hewson.

“Today there is zero unemployment in cybersecurity,” she said.

“There are over million jobs open and by 2021 3.1 million jobs will be open in cybersecurity. So it is an opportunity for schools to focus on that area,” she said.

The skills shortage is a broad issue that cuts across many industries. And it is becoming even more pressing for manufacturing and construction jobs.

The United States will have about 3.5 million new manufacturing jobs over the next decade. However, about 2 million are expected to go unfilled because of the skills gap, according to a report by Deloitte Consulting and the Manufacturing Institute.

Manufacturers have already started seeing a serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly skilled production positions, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

With the economy getting closer to full employment, it will be an even bigger challenge for manufacturers, said Chad Moutray, chief economist at the NAM.

There is a massive skills shortage also in the construction industry, according to Ivanka Trump.

To invest in infrastructure projects and to rebuild states that have been devastated, the United States needs more skilled construction workers, she said.

From The Epoch Times