The Real Labor Shortage: Skilled Blue-Collar Workers

As the global economy recovers and businesses around the world begin to expand their workforces again, labor shortages are bound to become a mounting issue for the developed world – despite current unemployment figures.

Frequently, when businesses experience labor shortages, they lack highly educated white-collar workers. However, a study released today suggests that businesses around the world are not particularly concerned about filling positions for engineers and architects.  Instead, it is the skilled blue-collar workers, like technicians and truck drivers, which present a challenge for businesses to employ, according to the report from Manpower, Inc.

Overwhelmingly, businesses in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, and Italy all list skilled labor as their most pressing employment issue.

One of the major reasons for a shortage of skilled labor is the problem of ambition. Too few young people who could become welders and fitters view the positions as desirable. As a result, they do not acquire the skills, either because they reach the white-collar workforce or fail and join the bottom of the workforce. According to the report, to deal with this issue business and government need to provide incentives to pursue these kinds of skilled labor positions and obtain the necessary training.

The second major issue limiting skilled labor numbers is that available skilled workers cannot reach prospective employers. Either they are unable or unwilling to relocate domestically to the area they are needed, or government immigration and integration policies are in place which make importing labor from overseas impractical, despite the obvious need. According to the report, the best way to deal with this problem in the short-term is for governments to improve their immigration policies and provide incentives for companies to “in-source” workers for these positions.

If these two issues are not addressed meaningfully, global businesses will be affected – as technicians, electricians and truck drivers are harder and more expensive to hire. By the time governments recognize the issue, global growth may suffer a major setback.

Michael B. Sauter

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