MSA program UNC ö Chapel Hillkrmck@email.unc.edu
The media has been reporting a mismatch in job location and needs and the labor force location and skills. Newsweek and the News and Observer of Raleigh carried articles about shortages of workers in the same week. National unemployment statistics can be misleading. An average of 5.4 unemployed nationally may sound reasonable, but unemployment is much higher in some areas while in other locations employers scramble for able, qualified workers. Employment has increasingly moved to non-traditional pockets where there are not large pockets of labor. Barriers such as transportation, daycare, affordable housing and racial prejudice prevent workers from moving to where the jobs are. Employers are also reporting a lack of "soft" skills in the potential employees. Many of the positions open in the labor market are in the service sector, rather than the industry jobs of the past. These service sector jobs require working with people and working with technology.
Jaffe, Greg (1997, January 16) South grapples with shortage of workers. The News & Observer, p. 9C.
Rhodes, Steve and Springen, Karen (1997, January 13) Yup: Help Wanted. Newsweek, pp. 52-53.
Economists and the general public have long warned we need to educate kids better. Just technology is not enough to prepare students for the future. Job structures change, locations change and people get left behind without the appropriate skills. Schools need to train students in the "soft" skills ö dealing with people, arriving on time, working in groups and getting along with people of other races and ethic groups. Flexibility and the skills for continued learning are also important. One job in one place for a lifetime is no longer a reasonable expectation. Educator need to realize that specific skills are quickly dated and of no use to employers a year after graduation. Computer technology in schools is dated before it is installed. But soft skills, flexibility and life-long learning strategies will serve a student well, no matter how the job market changes and will be essential in the future work place.