The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training employees and keeping them. Zig Ziglar
Back when the economy wasn’t in the dumpster, I was talking to a friend who works at one of those Internet (with a capital I) companies. He was complaining about their inability to find people with the right qualifications. After spending time talking with him, I ascertained that what his company really wanted was for someone in the same position at a different company to be laid off so that they could hire them.
His company had a very exacting list of qualifications and wasn’t willing to train any potential employees. They wanted someone off the shelf, so to speak, and weren’t going to take anyone without those qualifications. On the other hand, they would wait months rather than train the employees themselves. It didn’t make much sense to me at the time.
FrauTech has written recently about STEM recruiting games and ponzi schemes. Basically, companies are apparently doing what I described above as a way to drive down market prices and allow more H1B visas. It turns out that she was on the right track: the Wall Street Journal recently posted an article saying exactly the same things. There’s also an additional response to the feedback received by the author.
The gist of it is that the ‘labor shortage’ is a hoax made up by companies who don’t want to train people and, more importantly, don’t want to pay market wages. If they claim they can’t get qualified labor, then they’ll be able to open up more visas and pay less money. The article claims that, if there is a labor shortage, then it’s because of the hiring practices of the employers and not a real lack of potential employees. He then goes on to write about ways that employers can find ‘appropriately trained’ candidates without having to invest in much in their workers.
I’m very surprised these companies don’t go ahead and train the employees after signing an agreement stating that the employee has to stay with the company for a specified amount of time before leaving. If they leave before that date, then they have to reimburse the company for the money paid for their training or education. This is just one way to get what you want from an employee…but you have to be creative.
Another complaint of mine is the notion that education and training are the same thing: they aren’t. One point made in the article is that the companies are often blaming higher education for lack of ‘skilled’ workers. We have discussed (with some disagreement) in previous posts that college really should be a general education to allow people to move into several possible areas. Providing specific training for a specific job is actually a disservice to the student.
This last point is especially important considering the prevalence on non-compete agreements that many engineers must sign. This practice may be causing part of the problem: an employee can’t go to work for another company doing the same job as they had before. So my friend may be looking for someone with experience doing the exact same job…but that person can never take that job. However, it also causes almost 1/3 of engineers to leave their chosen field entirely. If colleges train students for specific jobs that the students have a high probability of leaving, then the colleges have not done much to help the student. (However, I can see this being a great business model for the university – students have to come back to learn other skills, right?)
Therefore, the supposed labor shortage is not a shortage of labor but a consequence of current hiring practices. There are a lot of options to fill open positions at minimal expense to the company, but it means the companies have to get creative, pay market wages, and stop shooting themselves in the foot.