Politicians like to talk about jobs and how, when they’re elected, they will magically fix the economy. All parties make this claim, but job creation is a strange monster that has a mind of its own. Figuring out which jobs are disappearing, which will never come back, which brand new ones will arise, and how we can influence any of it is a Herculean task.
In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, Russell Roberts looks at the topic of technological advancement versus job displacement. In the article, Roberts criticizes President Obama for questioning whether modernizing some jobs ends up hurting workers by eliminating their positions, as is the case with ATMs. Obama hypothesized that if you can go to an ATM to withdraw money or cash a check, banks might employ fewer tellers. Roberts dismisses this concern.
“Fifty years ago, the computer industry was tiny,” he explains. “It was able to expand because we no longer had to have so many workers connecting telephone calls. So many job descriptions exist today that didn’t even exist 15 or 20 years ago.”
That’s true, of course. Technology evolves beyond certain jobs and creates others. However, disregard how you feel about Obama and also ignore any political point Roberts is attempting to make with his op-ed. Talk of job creation and technological advancement pops up in political speeches constantly, but it’s not just a political issue; it’s a worker’s issue.
If you’re a job seeker, do you apply for a bank teller position and hope there’s a future in it? Are you better off working for the company that manufactures ATMs? Should you get certified to repair ATMs instead? Being a job seeker is never easy, but when you’re trying to avoid dying industries and make a career for yourself in a tough job market, the obstacles seem greater than ever. The same quandaries can be found in several industries.
That is why this news item from Indiana TV station WSBT gives an interesting insight into the minds of employers, particularly in manufacturing. Reporter Dustin Grove talks to one CFO at a manufacturing facility who explains how business is booming and the company’s hiring is on the rise, but the amount of qualified candidates is lacking. The CFO, Gary Galeziewski, says the company is trying to find workers with the right skills needed to build mining and off-road construction equipment.
The president of another manufacturing company explains a similar struggle:
“’I tell our human resources manager, if you find a skilled worker, whether or not we have an opening, hire them because we need them,” [says] Doshi.’
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent employment update shows the ups and downs of manufacturing. Jobs are being lost in transportation equipment, paper and paper products, and printing sectors. Yet, there is strong growth in fabricated metal products and in machinery, as seen with the above news story. In fact, according to the BLS, “The manufacturing industry added 243,000 jobs from a recent low point in December 2009 through April 2011.”
The hunt for skilled workers
Just last year we wrote about the complaints of many employers who claimed a lack of qualified workers for available positions. At the time, workplace expert Julian L. Alssid, executive director of the Workforce Strategy Center in New York, said it’s not just a matter of skills, it’s also a matter of time.
“Employers seem to be less willing to invest in training in this economy. Again, it is the combination of the right credential and practical experience they look for,” he said.” “Many job seekers can make themselves more competitive by getting industry-recognized credentials that are valued in today’s workplace. In many cases, that might mean a short-term certificate, not another college or graduate degree.”
Alssid went on to mention the difficulty employers have filling positions that require significant math and technical skills, such as engineering and engineering technicians.
Yet, there seem to be more than enough job seekers out there eager to fill these positions. As a result, frustrated job seekers all arrive to the big question: “How can I get hired?”
Based on what these employers are saying, here are a few tips that can help your search:
1. Don’t hide the good stuff
What do the employers above have in common? They need people who can do the job right now. If you’re applying for a job, especially in manufacturing or another skilled industry, mention your relevant experience as soon as possible. Whether it’s a one-to-one meeting, a cover letter or résumé, don’t expect an employer to waste time. In some cases, a college degree is not as important as your 10 years of experience, so think about how you’re prioritizing your credentials.
2. Research the industry in your community
In the WSBT story, the manufacturer explained how business was booming for the company. The BLS figures explained that parts of manufacturing at growing while others are dwindling. Both trends probably depend on where you’re located, also. Improve your chances or being hired by targeting the companies and industries that are doing well in your region. Consult the BLS, check out trade publications at your local library or bookstore, and read the local paper. See what new employers are coming to town and which have recently had layoffs.
3. Get the skills
If you don’t yet qualify for the career you want, try to find way to do it. If money and time allow, get the experience through volunteering or interning or taking a class. This option isn’t possible for everyone, but if it is and you know it can significantly improve your chances of being hired, go for it.
4. Emphasize your ability to start right now
Similar to not hiding the good stuff mentioned above, don’t let employers think you need a lot of hand holding. Any good boss will give you a grace period and some form of initial training. However, make it clear in your interview that you’re no stranger to the job’s duties. If you’ve done these duties before, stress your eagerness to tackle them again on Day One. Any doubts they might have about you could fade when they realize you can save them the time, money and headaches of extra training.
Networking is always important. In these industries where employers seem to have trouble finding qualified workers, go straight to the source. The people they’ve already hired are obviously qualified and on the employer’s good side, so getting a personal referral from an existing employee can put your résumé on the top of the stack.
Have you found that employers don’t want to hire employees that need extra training? Do you think there is a lack of skilled workers or are job seekers not clearly showing their qualifications to employers? Let us know your thoughts.