I attended a speech by Deepak Chopra a couple of months ago hosted by the Inc. Business Council. The talk was pleasant enough, but I came wide awake when Mr. Chopra cited Bill Clinton telling him over lunch there are well over two million jobs now in the US that are going unfilled. I thought, “How in God’s name can we have an official unemployment rate of 9.2% and a real unemployment rate of over 16% and have two million jobs unfilled?”
My initial reaction to Mr. Chopra’s annecdotal citation of this fact was beyond dubious. However, it bloody well is true! Not only is it true, but these jobs-gone-begging are generally high-paying jobs. Yup. I’ve seen it confirmed in multiple places, most recently in the just released report of President Obama’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council chaired by Jeff Immelt of G.E.
Mr. Immelt and Ken Chenault (CEO of American Express) co-wrote an editorial that prominently notes this employment conundrum. They write in the Wall Street Journal (6/13/11), “There are more than two million open jobs in the U.S., in part because employers can’t find workers with the advanced manufacturing skills they need. The private sector must quickly form partnerships with community colleges, vocational schools and others to match career training with real world hiring needs.” (I find it amusing, if a bit hypocritical, that the politically connected CEO of G.E, which contributed millions to the election of the current President and coincidentally paid zero taxes last year, suggests that the “private sector,” meaning mostly small businessmen like you and me, should “quickly” solve the problem.)
Last Friday, July 15, Alan Greenspan also spoke to this. He told The Globalist, “In the United States, we are in the process of seeing the baby boomers–the most productive, highly skilled educated part of our labor force–retire. They are being replaced by groups of young workers who have regrettably scored rather poorly in educational match-ups over the last two decades.” Indeed.
One solution I see is clearly to keep these skilled baby boomers working years longer. (I previously posted about this on June 29, 2010 if you want to read more.) Employers and HR people need to get this message. The recent Associated Press–LifeGoesStrong.com poll finds that most boomers consider old age to now begin at 70, and over a quarter of boomers aver you’re not old till you’re 80. In what I see as a coming age of austerity and probable entitlement cut-backs, there will also be need for older, skilled workers to work much longer before going quietly into that good night.
As the late Andre Maurois says in The Aging American (1961), “Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form.” Thanks, Andre.