I’m going to try to make a little sense out of the unemployment statistics from my vantage point in the American economy.
The stats show 9.2% unemployment, yet in my economic world most people are in hiring mode. Some people I talk to are looking for specific skills, like knowledge about CNC operation or screw machine set up, but even more are looking for people with a good work ethic and a willingness to learn and work hard. A few years ago it was all about recruiting skills, finding a disaffected person or enticing somebody with a fat package. Today it’s about teaching.
I was in a plant yesterday with a sign on the front lawn that said they were looking for machining trainees. They are getting a steady trickle of interested callers, mostly Hispanics and Eastern Europeans. They want to train them “their way.” The company is extremely busy, but reluctant to add more space in a high-priced neighborhood. They are squeezing in two more new Swiss CNCs in a week and want to beef up a second or even third shift. “We need to man up” the plant manager told me. And they want to do it with young people who they nurture.
I hear similar stories in manufacturing from around the country. People are generally not chasing high-priced talent. They prefer developing through the farm system.
I am seeing an enormous disconnect from the unemployed young and old who want to quickly become the “vice president of something.” Companies generally aren’t hiring managers. They want “producers,” or people they can quickly train into producers.
My theory about unemployment today is that we have millions of unfilled job openings and millions of people who want to be vice presidents, which is a bad fit. We also have a lousy construction industry with a million people who define themselves as being a member of the “building trades.” Another bad fit with no building.
Add to that the people who refuse to work for less than they think they are worth. Unfortunately the market is telling them that, at least today, they are not worth what they think they are worth. So they miss the jobs that have good upside, but do not fulfill their economic or status expectations.
Then there are the men in their 40’s and 50’s who have been out of work for months and years. They are angry and depressed and losing hope of ever working again. Unfortunately there are very few ads for sullen guys who expect 60K a year to assemble cars in Detroit (with a defined benefit package), or become sales managers.
The yahoos who write for the national newspapers still do not seem to get this as they blather on about unemployment. There are lots of jobs waiting to be filled, but they are not the vice president jobs so many think they want and deserve.
Meanwhile, the long-term unemployment benefits make it less onerous to be out of work, as the fruitless search goes on for the jobs that do not exist.
A small example — the technical work on this blog and Web site is being done by our excellent associate, Vincent, in the Philippines. One less computer tech job in Chicago.
When will people wake up and grab the opportunities to learn something new in an industry where there’s a need, like machining?
Question: Do you know people who are out of work but would not consider a factory job? Why?