August 2014

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42 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | August 2014 Solving the Skilled Workforce Crisis positions required skilled or highly skilled workers and that skills shortages reduced net earnings up to 11 percent due to increased overtime costs and increases in cycle time and downtime. In Britain, Jo Lopes, head of technical excellence at Jaguar Land Rover, stated, "Skills shortages in the advanced manu- facturing and engineering industries are at crisis levels." Andrew Churchill, manufacturing director at JJ Churchill, a UK gas turbine blade manufacturer, asserted, "The skills shortage is the biggest growth constraint for manufacturing." Growth Inhibitor The United States doesn't have a people unemployment problem. The United States has an unemployable people problem. The skills-job challenge of the 21st century is to prepare all of the nation's students and adult workers for a high-skill, high-knowledge economy. Our current education-to-employment system was invented in the early 20th century during an era that prepared most people for places in a low-skill, low-knowledge world. For most people this "system" did a great job – turning the 20th century into "the American century." But in the 21st century that mission has radically altered. Today, we must educate and train most students and adult workers to knowledge levels previously achieved by only a few people. Why isn't America already doing this? We are being held back by: 1) U.S. companies that reject the necessity of employee training as an essential part of their business strategy 2) An educational system that is lowering educational rigor rather than raising it 3) Students who refuse to learn or even how to learn well 4) Parents who do not encourage their children to do well in school because they do not link educational attainment with securing good-paying jobs and careers 5) A popular culture that places a low value on education as it is not viewed as important for individual success The reading comprehension of 50 percent of U.S. adults is below the 8th-grade level. Only about 30 percent of our high school graduates read at the 12th-grade level. This means too many Americans have a weak general education and a deficient ability to develop specific job/career skills for today's labor market. The education-to-employment system of the 20th century is no longer adequate for overcoming these knowledge challenges. It is a dying antique held over from a long-gone economic era. Moreover, U.S. employers on the whole are failing to assist adult workers with the training and education needed to keep up to date on technology changes in the workplace and digital business management innovations. The resulting skills-job disconnect now threatens the continued existence of 10 to 20 percent of U.S. companies. "Employee development is not an expense that gives the employee assets that they can take elsewhere. It is a necessity for your business to be able to succeed," asserts Ron Slee, an AED thought leader and an experienced consultant special- izing in dealership operations. As he recently stated in this publication, "Not having the correct number of employees with the right skills is currently inhibiting each and every dealership in their growth right now – today." There are companies in the construction equipment distribution sector that are already practicing what Ron is preaching. Gibson Machinery trimmed expenditures during the 2009 recession, but it did not stop investing in employee education and skills. As President Lee Gibson stated, "Train- ing is probably something that we try to not eliminate, because in the long run it saves you money and it makes you a better company." Technician, sales, and management train- ing are supported at Gibson Machinery as key components of the organization's competitive advantage. Such training is viewed as a powerful management strategy that will help employees feel more secure about their future, increase productivity, and yield greater personal commitment toward the businesses. Smaller businesses often do not see how they can afford to invest in quality worker training. They fear it will lead to skilled employees being poached by competitors. Just finding skilled people who are job ready has become an expensive, time-consuming recruitment process. RX: Regional Talent Innovation Networks (RETAINs) For the past 10 to 15 years, small businesses as well as larger organizations have been forming local and regional cross- sector public-private partnerships with local community institutions. To describe these many systemic solutions to the skills-job disconnect, I have coined the acronym RETAINs (Regional Talent Innovation Networks). They are nonprofit intermediaries that provide the linkages among elementary/ secondary schools, institutions providing post-secondary career, technical, and general education programs, and workplace-based training and education. RETAINs are reinventing regional service delivery systems by modernizing education-to-employment infrastructures. The goal is to ("No More Old School" continued from page 40) Ed Gordon (right) poses with Vice President Biden and Sec. Perez at the Third Way workforce crisis conference in June.

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