Wednesday, September 11, 2013

No Training, not Job Skills, Complaints about Vets

The Wall Street Journal ran a story titled Why Companies Aren't Getting the Employees They Need, written by an HR expert from Wharton. A few excerpts:

The staffing company ManpowerGroup reported that 52% of U.S. employers surveyed say they have difficulty filling positions because of talent shortages. But the problem is an illusion.

Companies are grousing that they can't find skilled workers. Employers are quick to lay blame. Schools aren't giving kids the right kind of training. The government isn't letting in enough high-skill immigrants. The list goes on and on.

But the real culprits are the employers themselves. With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time.

Finding candidates to fit jobs is not like finding pistons to fit engines, where the requirements are precise and can't be varied. Only about 10% of the people in IT jobs during the Silicon Valley tech boom of the 1990s, for example, had IT-related degrees. While it might be great to have a Ph.D. graduate read your electrical meter, almost anyone with a little training could do the job pretty well.

American companies don't seem to do training anymore. Apprenticeship programs have largely disappeared, along with management-training programs. The shortage of opportunities to learn "on the job" skills helps explain the phenomenon of people queuing up for unpaid internships, in some cases even paying so they can work free to get access to valuable on-the-job experience.

In response to this Wall Street article, Matthew Collins, who once spent 10 years as a Marine Intelligence Officer (and is now an unemployed MBA student at St. Louis University) wrote a piece. A few excerpts:

Veterans are some of the hardest hit by this insanity. While I understand that it is difficult to translate military experience into the civilian job market, this is getting out of hand.

Reuters just ran a story that mentioned a medic who couldn't use his background to get a job as he would need two more years of school to get the same civilian medical qualifications he had in the military. I know one grunt with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who bagged groceries for two years after he got out, then took a job as a defense contractor in Afghanistan. I recently applied for a job as a security guard, but didn't get it because I did not have the right credentials. I've carried a gun in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, but I apparently need more training and licenses to carry one around an office building.

As the military draws down in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more veterans are going to try to enter the workforce. The Department of Defense and others have said that defense cuts could raise unemployment another percent. If firms are going to continue to expect perfect candidates to emerge fully formed from Zeus's head like Athena, a lot more veterans are going to be filing for unemployment.

In response to Matthew Collins' post, someone wrote a comment who says that they left the Regular Army as a captain and went to work for a global corporation. He wrote that he had a bad experience hiring Vets, and blamed them.

  • Vets expect too much from the employer
  • Vets expect high praise for no accomplishments
  • Nearly all the Vets failed to learn how to manage their benefits
  • The typical Vet was not ready to work.
  • Their attitude and work ethic is lacking
  • Many of them had a standoffish attitude
  • Their work habits were focused on avoiding tasks

He offered this advise for Vets entering the civilian job market:

  • Don't copy your OER duty description or award bullets into your resume. It's lazy and we can tell.
  • Don't talk down to civilians who don't have military experience.
  • Have a good reason why you are leaving your military career. It can't be because you can't get promoted. We know how easy it is to get promoted and we don't want to hire a drone.

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