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Rory
Post  Post subject: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 01, 2014 10:50 am
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One meme that seems to be in the headlines a lot is an apparent shortage of certain skills within the workforce. This may be accurate in the field of IT in the fight against the 'dark web' but I don't see how the headlines match the reality of having record numbers of University graduates, probably the most highly skilled sector of the labour market, working in low skilled low paid insecure jobs.

We don't have a shortage of skills, we have a shortage of the types of jobs that require and reward a skilled workforce.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30224320

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:07 pm
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You're right. The skills shortage claim is not supported by evidence and is more likely just an easy scapegoat that happens to align with some peoples ideological preconceptions.

If it were about skills shortages, some sectors would be seeing low unemployment, yet unemployment is high across job types. If it were about skills shortages, we'd see wages increasing in those areas where labor supply is low so as to attract more workers, but we don't see that either. The article below lays out the several reasons this idea is flawed, and is accompanied with excellent graphs and study citations.

http://www.epi.org/publication/shortage ... d-workers/
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One potential explanation for the extremely weak US jobs recovery is “skills mismatch,” whereby workers do not have the skills for the jobs that are available. There is a sizeable literature on whether a skills mismatch is a driver of today’s weak jobs recovery, and the strong consensus is that the weak labor market recovery is not due to skills mismatch (or any other structural factors). Instead, it is due to weakness in aggregate demand. For example, a 2012 paper by Edward Lazear (chief economist for George W. Bush) and James Spletzer states:

“An analysis of labor market data suggests that there are no structural changes that can explain movements in unemployment rates over recent years. Neither industrial nor demographic shifts nor a mismatch of skills with job vacancies is behind the increased rates of unemployment. … The patterns observed are consistent with unemployment being caused by cyclic phenomena that are more pronounced during the current recession than in prior recessions.” (Lazear et al, 2012)

Despite the clear consensus among researchers that the unambiguous problem is a shortfall of aggregate demand, there is a strong public narrative that today’s jobs recovery is weak because workers don’t have the right skills. Why? One reason may be psychological – it’s easier to blame workers for lack of skills rather than face the fact that millions cannot find work no matter what they do because the jobs simply are not there. That in turn makes it easy for stories and anecdotes about employers who cannot find workers with the skills they need to circulate unscrutinized.

Another reason is political, since the cause of high unemployment is vitally important for policy. If high unemployment is due to workers not having the right skills, then the correct policy prescription is to focus on education and training, and macroeconomic policy to boost aggregate demand will not reduce unemployment. Policymakers and commentators who are against fiscal stimulus have a strong incentive to accept and propagate the myth that today’s high unemployment is because workers lack the right skills.

The evidence

The key insight unpinning the evidence presented here is... <continue reading>


The bottom line:

Quote:
Conclusion: it’s aggregate demand, stupid!

There are simply no structural changes capable of explaining the pattern of sustained high unemployment over the last five years. What we have, instead, is an aggregate demand problem. The reason we are not seeing robust job growth is because businesses have not seen demand for their goods and services pick up in a way that would require them to significantly ramp up hiring. The right policies for the present moment are, therefore, straightforward. More education and training to help workers make job transitions could help some individuals, but it’s not going to generate demand, so it will not solve the unemployment crisis.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:13 pm
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unfortunately skills don't equate to degrees and certificates - the piece of paper you get at the end of your studies is only the start of assessing your employability in a world where the number of people is fast outgrowing the jobs that make a living

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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 01, 2014 11:11 pm
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Thanks for the info, iNow

That's true, marnix, but if you consider your average graduate, irrespective of discipline, they will inevitably have adopted certain transferable skills during their education: higher order literacy, numeracy, analysis, interpretation, data management, presentation skills, written and verbal communication. Not to mention the pragmatic life skills that come with living independently and often far from the family home: managing a budget, navigating the real world, socialising, self-defence/protection against danger as well s against health and safety hazards. In general I think higher education equips young peole with an independence, mturity and self-confidence that cannot be said for a short vocational course completed while living in the parental home.

Manual and physical skills can easily be taught as a 'top up' to higher education but it is not possible to 'cram' in the space of a few weeks for the perspective that HE confers. I reckon that the skills base is there but employers are not recognising or fostering it. Human resources are often called upon to hire staff for a field that is alien to them and it would not be surprising if they fail to identify the skills that are actually pertinent to the role.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:33 am
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Rory wrote:
I reckon that the skills base is there but employers are not recognising or fostering it. Human resources are often called upon to hire staff for a field that is alien to them and it would not be surprising if they fail to identify the skills that are actually pertinent to the role.


worse than that : at least at our place HR pre-screen candidates using telephone interviewing and those with a deficient telephone manner, however qualified they may otherwise be, don't even make it to the interview

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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 11:42 am
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worse than that : at least at our place HR pre-screen candidates using telephone interviewing and those with a deficient telephone manner, however qualified they may otherwise be, don't even make it to the interview


Because, you know, telephony skills are of paramount importance for scientists and engineers who spend 90% of their time working independently with machinery/equipment. It's not like telephony skills training could be provided in-house to the most gifted scientists/engineers. Better to get a mediocre scientist with charming telephone manner :roll: :roll:

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 6:36 pm

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Rory wrote:
Because, you know, telephony skills are of paramount importance for scientists and engineers who spend 90% of their time working independently with machinery/equipment.

Depends on who you are hiring. If you are hiring a technician who will spend his days soldering, then communication skills may well not be important. But for a scientist or engineer, communication skills are critical, because scientists/engineers who cannot work on a team are relatively useless. Hence the importance of being able to communicate.
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It's not like telephony skills training could be provided in-house to the most gifted scientists/engineers. Better to get a mediocre scientist with charming telephone manner :roll: :roll:

Better to get an excellent scientist with a charming telephone manner! (or even a merely adequate ability to communicate.)


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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:28 pm
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Of course scientists need to have effective verbal communication skills in order to present their data and to exchange ideas within their Lab group and at conferences. However this skill is fairly easy to teach whereas scientific teaching takes a lot more time and energy and arguably there are some aspects that cannot be taught - scientific intuition. As such it would be more efficient to hire a scientifically gifted individual and then train them in public speaking than it would be to hire a wordsmith and then attempt to teach them 3-8 years' worth of scientific skills.

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 9:31 pm

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Rory wrote:
Of course scientists need to have effective verbal communication skills in order to present their data and to exchange ideas within their Lab group and at conferences. However this skill is fairly easy to teach whereas scientific teaching takes a lot more time and energy and arguably there are some aspects that cannot be taught - scientific intuition. As such it would be more efficient to hire a scientifically gifted individual and then train them in public speaking than it would be to hire a wordsmith and then attempt to teach them 3-8 years' worth of scientific skills.

Two points there:

1) If someone has been working as a scientist or engineer for a few years and hasn't learned this skill that is likely because they are unable to (since as you mention it is critical.) Thus inability in an experienced scientist/engineer is a huge red flag, and removing them from the pool of candidates saves time.

2) New engineer/scientists (recent grads or undergrads) may not have these skills - which is why career fairs work quite well. (We use career fairs quite often to find interns, for example.) Poor phone skills are bypassed with face to face interviews. Of course, if their communication skills are so poor they cannot communicate via phone, face to face meeting or whiteboard, then they're simply not good candidates for most engineering/science positions.


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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2014 11:12 pm
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The first point is simply not true - you have to actually give employees the opportunity to practice this kind of activity and to train them if necessary. By way of example, I worked as a research technician in a bioscience lab for 3 years. I hate telephone conversations because: i) they're generally unpredictable - the call is initiated by one person with an agenda of which the recipient is unaware and probably unprepared to receive, ii) there is no opportunity for quiet contemplation and planning of the content and delivery of speech when on a phone call in real time. As such, I do not think telephony is the optimal medium for anything except a quick exchange of basic information - certainly it is not good in an interview situation. Would you pick a spouse over the phone?

Still, I don't think that I inherently lack the ability to speak well on the phone - only that in my previous job I spent probably 50% of my time working with apparatus and 30% of my time staring at a computer screen trying to block out the noise from the open plan office. I was never given the opportunity to exercise or gain those skills except to receive orders from others or else to present data at lab meetings.

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:47 am

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Rory wrote:
The first point is simply not true - you have to actually give employees the opportunity to practice this kind of activity and to train them if necessary.

I agree; they do need such training. And someone who has been working as an engineer or scientist and _still_ cannot do that - that's a huge warning flag. That's a basic skill that engineers/scientists need that they don't have. Either they are working in a job where it's not needed (rare and troubling) or they simply cannot learn it after years of experience (even more troubling.)

It would be akin to hiring an RF engineer who did not understand Maxwell's Equations. Can they learn those? Perhaps. Would they benefit from basic training to teach them Maxwell's Equations, followed by practical training and evaluation? Sure. But there are going to be better employees who learned that skill in college if you need an RF engineer.

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By way of example, I worked as a research technician in a bioscience lab for 3 years. I hate telephone conversations because: i) they're generally unpredictable - the call is initiated by one person with an agenda of which the recipient is unaware and probably unprepared to receive

OK maybe we're talking about two different things. When we phone interview people they've already submitted a resume and an application, received an email telling them what to expect in the interview, and received a call from HR confirming their availability and time of the interview. We don't blind call people to try to "catch them unawares."

And even so we get a fair number who are clearly unsuitable just via the phone interview - people who can do no more than recite their resume, or cannot recall any other details about a previous job other than what's in their resume, or cannot answer even basic questions about what they are being interviewed for. If they are questionable we bring them in and do a face to face, but making the first pass via phone often saves a lot of time.
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As such, I do not think telephony is the optimal medium for anything except a quick exchange of basic information - certainly it is not good in an interview situation. Would you pick a spouse over the phone?

Of course not. Nor would I choose a spouse over the Internet. But I did meet my (now) wife over the Net. Her ability to write definitely made a difference; if we had exchanged emails and hers had contained incomprehensible grammar, gross misspellings and logical inconsistencies it's unlikely I would have ever met her in person.


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Wed Dec 03, 2014 2:31 am
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There is video interviewing software available if phone conversations are too problematic. Works like Skype or Facetime, basically.

That said, I'm pretty sure those who claim unemployment is high due to skills shortage are not referring to the skill of being able to speak on the telephone well enough to get passed the initial recruiter call and move on to round 2 of the interview process.

Summarized version:

The Number of Unemployed Exceeds the Number of Available Jobs Across All Sectors
http://www.epi.org/blog/the-number-of-u ... l-sectors/
Quote:
The figure below shows the number of unemployed workers and the number of job openings in September, by industry. This figure is useful for diagnosing what’s behind our sustained high unemployment. If today’s labor market woes were the result of skills shortages or mismatches, we would expect to see some sectors where there are more unemployed workers than job openings, and others where there are more job openings than unemployed workers. What we find, however, is that unemployed workers exceed jobs openings across the board.

Image
^Click to embiggen

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kojax
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 2:31 am
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I know there is a shortage of truck drivers. It's an easy skill to get. about $3,500.00 and one month of class time. But it's also a complicated life to live, being on the road all the time, so there is a shortage of qualified applicants despite how easy it is to become one.

In the IT field I think the problem is that "skilled" means you know how to work with the very latest technology, like cloud servers, and stuff like that. Or maybe something newer is out there already? Because the "latest technology" changes all the time, there is always a shortage of people who have the skills associated with it.


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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 1:32 pm
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Billvon,

Of course, in a telephone interview situation the candidate is likely to be able to anticipate the questions:

Why are you interested in this position?
Why are you interested in our department/company?
How well do your skills and experience match the selection criteria?

Even so, the candidate is likely to be more nervous and experiencing more pressure than would be the case in an everyday situation if they actually secured the job. As such, it doesn't tell you anything about how the candidate would navigate a real life ordinary telephone conversation. It tells you only how they perform under pressure when denied access to facial expressions and body language.

In the grand scheme of things I suppose this isn't such a big deal - it provides a way of naturally selecting out recruiters fron the pool of potential employers, such that any candidate who happens to not perform well under pressure without eye contact, facial ecpressions and body language as cues - may then look for a different more sensible employer who is willing to accept them on the basis of the main requirements for a scientific post. It frees them up to find an employer willing to treat them as a person to be developed and cared about rather than as a resource to be discarded when its efficiency fails in comparison with others.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 2:59 pm
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kojax wrote:
In the IT field I think the problem is that "skilled" means you know how to work with the very latest technology, like cloud servers, and stuff like that. Or maybe something newer is out there already? Because the "latest technology" changes all the time, there is always a shortage of people who have the skills associated with it.

Yet the data clearly shows that it's low demand and absence of spending power and lack of proactive fiscal policy that is driving unemployment, not a lack of people with the skills required to do these jobs as we so often hear parroted.

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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 10:54 pm
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Kojax,

One solution to the problem you have mentioned would be to hire IT 'all-rounders'. By this, I mean the type of person who is both competent and greatly interested in a wide breadth of technologies and who also has in-depth knowledge in those areas. Such a person would be more likely not only to be able to see the implications of technological developments in one part of the field for another, but would be more likely to spend time (unpaid, for the fun of it) messing about at the technological frontiers. Naturally that makes the job of the recruiter more difficult because there is no course you can take or qualification you can achieve that allows you to become that type of person. And since many talented people lack introspection/self-awareness (why would they waste time on self-reflection when they could spend that time studying their specialism?), it is not good enough for recruiters to sit back and expect the candidate to do their job for them by asking, 'why should we hire you?'

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 08, 2014 6:01 pm

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Rory wrote:
We don't have a shortage of skills, we have a shortage of the types of jobs that require and reward a skilled workforce.

I think in the long term the primary problem will be a lack of unskilled jobs. Automation is replacing more and more unskilled workers, and there simply isn't going to be a "sink" for all those people as this accelerates. For a while the answer was "service industries" but even cashiers, ticket agents and tour guides are being replaced by automation. We may hit a point where there even in a good economy there simply aren't enough unskilled jobs to keep a segment of our labor pool employed.

Not sure what the solution is. A mandatory 30 hour work week? Bans on automation? (would be a terrible solution)


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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 08, 2014 6:54 pm
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Billvon,

I don't see automation as a problem but rather as a solution. Automation increases the efficiency of production and services. Ergo the company makes more profits and is in a position to continue paying people, even to do nothing. Doing nothing is, in my opinion, better than performing robotic unskilled manual labour that could be completed more efficiently by machinery. Some people think that it is somehow 'virtuous' to work manually rather than to not work at all. That does not add up if the work is meaningless for the employee or if the work causes health problems for the employees or if the end product does not add anything useful to society. I think this morality framework stems from a desire of the powerful in society to keep the masses down and to keep the masses from thinking. It is then professed as fact by the working classes in an attempt to shame the unemployed, probably out of resentment on the part of the working classes, who know that they are being unfairly exploited but cannot think of any rational way to address the power imbalance so instead they kick the most vulnerable in society as a way of attempting to make themselves feel better; becausecthey want to feel morally superior to the workless even if they cannot manage to be financially superior. Those employees are then free to find alternative means of finding meaning in life and are more likely to be intelkectually and emotionally involved in tge world. In short, they can realise their right to live ratger than to merely exist by performing degrading dehumanising tasks that they don't even want to do. It's not like Western economies are naive when it comes to restructuring: the transition from the Industrial Revolution tovpist industrial world has shown that people are capable of adapting to changes in labour demand - hence the growth of services and the knowledge economy.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 08, 2014 9:00 pm
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billvon wrote:
Not sure what the solution is. A mandatory 30 hour work week? Bans on automation? (would be a terrible solution)

More and more economists seem to be converging on the idea of a basic guaranteed minimum income, including many conservatives. What do you think of the idea? It's hard to swallow, but definitely negates much of the unintended consequence from automation and would help us avoid hollowing out the entire middle of the economy.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/arc ... _page=true
http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/ ... e-for-all/

Rory wrote:
I don't see automation as a problem but rather as a solution. Automation increases the efficiency of production and services. Ergo the company makes more profits and is in a position to continue paying people, even to do nothing

Revenues could certainly remain flat to up with automation (once the initial Capital Expenditure begins seeing a Return On Investment), but if that's the case (and revenue is only slightly up) then profits will only rise if costs also come down. Headcount is generally the largest single cost on any company's bottom line (usually about 70% or more of Operating Expenditures) so cutting them may not be the morally/ethically correct decision, but it's definitely the business/financially correct decision.

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 08, 2014 9:25 pm

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Rory wrote:
I don't see automation as a problem but rather as a solution. Automation increases the efficiency of production and services. Ergo the company makes more profits and is in a position to continue paying people, even to do nothing.

Company A hires 100 people to do nothing rather than lay them off. Company B does not; it lays off 100 people. Company B then out-competes company A because they have fewer expenses and sell their products at a lower cost. At Company B 100 people are out of work. At Company A 1000 people are out of work. So I don't think that works well.
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Doing nothing is, in my opinion, better than performing robotic unskilled manual labour that could be completed more efficiently by machinery.

It is arguably worse both for the employer and the employee. Doing nothing causes people to stagnate; they become obese, they lose mental acuity and they lose the skills they have. And then they lose their jobs (see Company A above) and are now obese, physically unfit, and untalented. Not a good position to be in.
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Some people think that it is somehow 'virtuous' to work manually rather than to not work at all. That does not add up if the work is meaningless for the employee or if the work causes health problems for the employees or if the end product does not add anything useful to society.

I definitely agree. If the work is meaningless or does not contribute to the employee (or in the case of government jobs, society) then it should be discontinued.
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I think this morality framework stems from a desire of the powerful in society to keep the masses down and to keep the masses from thinking.

Employment decisions stem from a desire to make one's company successful. No company that spent a lot of money "keeping the masses down" by providing meaningless jobs would long survive.


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kojax
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Tue Dec 09, 2014 3:23 am
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Rory wrote:
Kojax,

One solution to the problem you have mentioned would be to hire IT 'all-rounders'. By this, I mean the type of person who is both competent and greatly interested in a wide breadth of technologies and who also has in-depth knowledge in those areas. Such a person would be more likely not only to be able to see the implications of technological developments in one part of the field for another, but would be more likely to spend time (unpaid, for the fun of it) messing about at the technological frontiers. Naturally that makes the job of the recruiter more difficult because there is no course you can take or qualification you can achieve that allows you to become that type of person. And since many talented people lack introspection/self-awareness (why would they waste time on self-reflection when they could spend that time studying their specialism?), it is not good enough for recruiters to sit back and expect the candidate to do their job for them by asking, 'why should we hire you?'


Unfortunately, I think people like that are born, not made. You can't teach someone who isn't naturally like that to become like that in a college course.

That means there will always be a shortage of them. And there is no way to correct the shortage.

edit: mixed quotes with responses somehow.


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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Tue Dec 09, 2014 10:20 am
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Well, there might be a shortage of that type of person - or it might be the case that such individuals are overlooked at interview.

'Did you see that kid, what he was wearing? How can he think that's appropriate for an interview? And the way he displayed zero eye contact? Very weird.'

They just threw away the kid who spends 70% of his spare time coding, for fun.

Yeah, I don't have much respect for HR departments, management or convention.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014 3:37 am
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It's unfortunate that so many people don't get to experience strong HR teams. In my experience, these are the folks that help people realize their passions and get rewarded for their contributions, the ones training them to do the job they want 2 years from now.

What most see, though, are folks who are far too interested in who you have dinner with and what language you use in emails or who approved a poster in the cafeteria. That's not what HR is supposed to be. The visionaries focus on talent and engagement, succession and recruiting, not behavior and paperwork and middle school pubescent crap.

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014 5:36 am

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Rory wrote:
Well, there might be a shortage of that type of person - or it might be the case that such individuals are overlooked at interview.
"'Did you see that kid, what he was wearing? How can he think that's appropriate for an interview? And the way he displayed zero eye contact? Very weird.'
They just threw away the kid who spends 70% of his spare time coding, for fun.
Yeah, I don't have much respect for HR departments, management or convention.


Some HR departments are great, some not so great - as with any other organization. A good HR person might hire the person above if they want to hire someone to just generate code and never interact with anyone - and that might be a good decision. A good HR person might pass on the person above if the person has to interact with other people - and that also might be a good decision.


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014 5:37 pm
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Remember also that in most organizations it's not HR that does the hiring, but instead the manager to whom the new hire will report.

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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2014 12:49 am
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Yep, sometimes the manager sits in on the interview and has the greatest influence over the ultimate decision. But middle management are a pointless bunch: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation?language=en

Traditional carrot and stick methods do not work under conditions when the path from business objective to achievement is convoluted. A part of this is probably due to the fact that, given a complex problem, it is no easier to solve that problem with or without incentives or punishments. Another factor is that people tend not to enjoy the consciousness of being subordibate to any authority figure, and for that reason will play up, even if they are being rewarded, because that reward is still a reminder of their subordinate position. Conversely, employees respond to the opportunity for greater autonomy and responsibility and to being challenged in a positive way. Not that this matters - companies will continue to ignore the data and instead to hire middle managment who relish the opportunity to serve praise or punishment. Well done Mr. Banker, you just brought the country to its knees, have another £1 million bonus.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2014 2:53 am
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Rory wrote:
Yep, sometimes the manager sits in on the interview and has the greatest influence over the ultimate decision. But middle management are a pointless bunch:

All of 'em, eh? Good to know.

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kojax
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2014 6:18 am
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Motivation only matters when the task is possible to achieve. A prisoner in Jail for 10 years might be highly motivated to escape, for example. But will they? Not unless it is possible. Not unless they see an opportunity.

If there is no practical way for a person to move from one financial tier to another, then probably not many people will do it. If you save half your income every check, but you're in one of those jobs where your lifetime expected earnings are around 1.5 million, then you'll be spending a long time before you can even get to the 0.75 million dollar bracket. Hardly a tycoon.

I've met people who brag about making 50k a year. So I guess it would take them 30 years to reach that mark (more if we factor in taxes.) So they'd probably be at least 50. Trying to get to 1.5 million would take till 80. After that, I think it's safe to assume they'll be wanting to retire. Maybe spend some of the money before they die.


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2014 3:01 pm
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I recently saw these images at the link below. This thread reminds me of it. A high school teacher found a simple but remarkably powerful way to teach his class about what inequality really means.

http://www.boredpanda.com/lesson-about- ... awareness/
Quote:
One high school teacher decided to teach his class about privilege, so he made a simple exercise. First, all the students received a piece of paper and crumpled it into a ball. Then, ... <continue reading>

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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:06 pm
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Kojax,

What you say is accurate - but there are work-related objectives that are easier to achieve with high motivation and that are not hindered by external financial constraints. E.g. development of new and more efficacious therapeutic interventions in medical science, transmission of knowledge and inspiration from teacher to student.

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:02 pm

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kojax wrote:
If there is no practical way for a person to move from one financial tier to another, then probably not many people will do it.

Well, if there is no practical way for a person to move from one financial tier to another, then no one will ever do it, by definition.
Quote:
If you save half your income every check, but you're in one of those jobs where your lifetime expected earnings are around 1.5 million, then you'll be spending a long time before you can even get to the 0.75 million dollar bracket. Hardly a tycoon.

Agreed. Fortunately "being a tycoon" is not on most people's lists.


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kojax
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2014 2:40 am
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The having or not having of a practical way to move upward tends to be a matter of luck. Just like the guy in your earlier story who received an education benefit as part of his job as a janitor. Probably 100 other janitors out there just get minimum wage and that's it.

We can't blame a person for failing to move upward if the means was never really available to them. The chance of being lucky and getting a means might be there for everyone, but if we count that as a balancer, then we're basically making success into a lottery.

And as the wealth concentrates more and more, it will become an increasingly meaningless lottery. Your odds of receiving the winning ticket will get smaller and smaller until they're basically as bad as the "Power Ball" or "Megamillions" lottery games.


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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2014 9:53 pm

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kojax wrote:
The having or not having of a practical way to move upward tends to be a matter of luck. Just like the guy in your earlier story who received an education benefit as part of his job as a janitor. Probably 100 other janitors out there just get minimum wage and that's it.

In my example he wasn't receiving education benefits as part of his job, he was availing himself of outside education - which is available to all. K-12 is free and community colleges are very cheap. Now, I agree that 100 janitors don't want to do that; that might be one reason they decided to be a janitor. Their choice.
Quote:
The chance of being lucky and getting a means might be there for everyone, but if we count that as a balancer, then we're basically making success into a lottery.

To some degree it is. If you are born with a congenital brain deformation that confers an IQ of 70 there's not much you can do to become successful. Likewise if you are born in Sandire, Niger, you are not likely to have the opportunity.
Success requires a lot of things - some luck, a willingness to work hard and take risk, and talent. Not everyone will be successful.
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And as the wealth concentrates more and more, it will become an increasingly meaningless lottery.

I think it becomes more meaningFUL. The odds are the same - but the jackpot is higher.
Quote:
Your odds of receiving the winning ticket will get smaller and smaller . . . . .

I disagree. The odds of you becoming fabulously wealthy are about the same as they've always been, and will be reserved for the people who show exceptional talent, exceptional luck, exceptional effort or take exceptional risks (often a combination of them.) That's not the problem. The problem stems from a loss of easier/simpler ways to make money, and thus employment for the people who are not exceptional in the above categories. As automation replaces more of those jobs, there will be a deficit of employment opportunities for the average Joes, not the people who want to "win the lottery."


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 3:53 am
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billvon wrote:
I disagree. The odds of you becoming fabulously wealthy are about the same as they've always been

Citation needed. Data, much of which has already been shared in this very thread, strongly suggests otherwise.

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 11:36 pm

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iNow wrote:
billvon wrote:
I disagree. The odds of you becoming fabulously wealthy are about the same as they've always been

Citation needed. Data, much of which has already been shared in this very thread, strongly suggests otherwise.

Sure. Here's one story on a study by Mark Robert Rank, Thomas A. Hirschl and Kirk A. Foster - (source NPR)

==============
Being 'Rich' Is More Common Than You Think, At Least Temporarily
June 28, 2014 2:27 PM ET

Sean Braswell


By the time they turn 60 years old, 21 percent of U.S. adults have enjoyed an annual household income of above $250,000 for at least one year of their working lives.

We tend to think of income groups such as the "top 1 percent" as being relatively stable collectives, particularly in nations like the U.S. that, despite popular rhetoric, enjoy rather low levels of social mobility.

But the truth is more complicated, and more volatile. The average American's chances of attaining the American dream, at least in terms of a high income, are greater than you might think, but so are the odds of waking up from that dream.

By the time they turn 60 years old, 21 percent of U.S. adults have enjoyed an annual household income of above $250,000 for at least one year of their working lives, according to an analysis reported in the new book Chasing the American Dream. And the number of people who temporarily join the ranks of what amounts to the top 2 percent of earners has more than doubled since 1979.

The authors of the study, Mark Robert Rank, Thomas A. Hirschl and Kirk A. Foster, used longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a representative sample of U.S. families and individuals dating back to 1968, to examine social mobility trends in America. The researchers argue that "even when looking at shorter periods of time, affluence is a relatively common event" in America, but one that is also typically short-lived given the "sizable amount of turnover and movement within the top levels of the income distribution."
=================================


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 1:46 am
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Can you share the actual study being used in the story? Details matter when making claims like yours about the odds of achieving fabulous wealth and whether or not they normalize the data per capita or control for starting income.

billvon wrote:
In my example he wasn't receiving education benefits as part of his job, he was availing himself of outside education - which is available to all. K-12 is free and community colleges are very cheap. Now, I agree that 100 janitors don't want to do that; that might be one reason they decided to be a janitor. Their choice.

Since 1978, the real value of the minimum wage has dropped by 25% while the cost of a college degree has risen by 1120%. Tell me again how poverty-wage workers just need to "get an education?"

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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 5:41 pm
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Not to mention that due to a record high supply of graduates to the labour market the associated qualifications have depreciated. As such highly skilled graduates are now filtered into low skilled low paid insecure work (because that's all that's available to most).^see stats posted above. The argument for higher education as a means of social mobility/economic prosperity died a long time ago.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 20, 2014 1:30 am
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Maybe not dead, but certainly holding on with a concussion, a few bone fractures, and several cancers.

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kojax
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sun Dec 21, 2014 2:39 pm
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billvon wrote:
iNow wrote:
billvon wrote:
I disagree. The odds of you becoming fabulously wealthy are about the same as they've always been

Citation needed. Data, much of which has already been shared in this very thread, strongly suggests otherwise.

Sure. Here's one story on a study by Mark Robert Rank, Thomas A. Hirschl and Kirk A. Foster - (source NPR)

==============
Being 'Rich' Is More Common Than You Think, At Least Temporarily
June 28, 2014 2:27 PM ET

Sean Braswell


By the time they turn 60 years old, 21 percent of U.S. adults have enjoyed an annual household income of above $250,000 for at least one year of their working lives.

We tend to think of income groups such as the "top 1 percent" as being relatively stable collectives, particularly in nations like the U.S. that, despite popular rhetoric, enjoy rather low levels of social mobility.

But the truth is more complicated, and more volatile. The average American's chances of attaining the American dream, at least in terms of a high income, are greater than you might think, but so are the odds of waking up from that dream.

By the time they turn 60 years old, 21 percent of U.S. adults have enjoyed an annual household income of above $250,000 for at least one year of their working lives, according to an analysis reported in the new book Chasing the American Dream. And the number of people who temporarily join the ranks of what amounts to the top 2 percent of earners has more than doubled since 1979.


That last part looks very promising. However I'm reserved about some of the other parts, because analyzing the problem of concentration of wealth over a 30+ year span can include data from the earlier part of the trend. However the trend is somewhat recent.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/2 ... 39281.html

Image

(It might not be displaying the whole graph. The 1980-2005 part is where the spike is at.)

I see the biggest problem with concentrating wealth as being political in nature. Other problems are there as well, but this one sits on top because it endangers the whole system. The more one group gets a monetary advantage, the more they are able to leverage that advantage in politics to change the rules to gain more monetary advantage. It's a feedback effect.

This CEO salary thing, for example, came because a loophole was introduced in the salary rules for "performance based salary."


If you want to see a fine place to analyze this kind of feedback effect that isn't affected by worry of "class warfare", you can look at the farm subsidies for Corn. Corn has gotten the same kind of feedback effect I'm talking about. As the subsidies for corn get bigger, Corn lobbyists have more money to lobby to increase the subsidy. ... which in turn gives them bigger subsidies, which in turn gives them more money to lobby.

http://www.economist.com/node/7887994

Right now corn is crowding out all the other agricultural products in the USA. It's got better subsidies, so why would a farmer want to grow anything else? Is it healthy for the USA's soil? Most certainly not. Variety would be more healthy for the long term. It's also damaging the world market, because subsidized corn is allowed to be sold abroad. (Which ultimately means the USA sells its corn to other nations at a net loss.)

I think a similar thing can happen when a few wealthy people start making all the money. They can start lobbying to favor their own businesses, and use the law as a club to knock down newcomers by regulating specific traits of their opposition's product. Not as uncommon as you might think.


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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 6:55 pm

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iNow wrote:
Since 1978, the real value of the minimum wage has dropped by 25% while the cost of a college degree has risen by 1120%. Tell me again how poverty-wage workers just need to "get an education?"

That's only one of the things they need for success. They also need determination, a willingness to take risks and luck.


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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 11:34 pm
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Determination inspires action but in a context in which reward is not directly linked to performance (i.e. 21st Century UK or US) then determination is not going to get you very far. Risk-taking may be necessary in order to be an outright success but it is also required in order to be an outright failure (in material terms, at least). Luck - the happenchance of finding oneself on the receiving end of a winning lottery ticket - would be a useful commodity but unfortunately it does not exist intrinsic to the person. A punter might beat astronomical odds once, and that is normally when they stop playing. Modern day society glorifies those risk-takers who happen to have randomly selected the winning ticket and conveniently ignores those who did not.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Tue Dec 23, 2014 1:26 am
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billvon wrote:
iNow wrote:
Since 1978, the real value of the minimum wage has dropped by 25% while the cost of a college degree has risen by 1120%. Tell me again how poverty-wage workers just need to "get an education?"

That's only one of the things they need for success. They also need determination, a willingness to take risks and luck.

Sure, but you were commenting specifically about janitors not wanting to go to school as if laziness is somehow the key variable at play. It would be myopic and inaccurate to so simply cast aside the cost issue of education and assume that opportunities post-education are still as available today as they've always been.

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 3:40 am

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iNow wrote:
Sure, but you were commenting specifically about janitors not wanting to go to school as if laziness is somehow the key variable at play.

For some it is; for others it is not. In my experience I've only met one janitor who was kept in his job by a lack of innate skill; the rest simply were passing through the job or valued other things more highly than financial success (like drinking with their buddies.)
Quote:
It would be myopic and inaccurate to so simply cast aside the cost issue of education and assume that opportunities post-education are still as available today as they've always been.

I am not claiming it is not an issue, just that it is usually not the primary issue. You can complete primary education for free in the US and get a degree for less than $1500 a year.


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kojax
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 7:44 am
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billvon wrote:
iNow wrote:
Since 1978, the real value of the minimum wage has dropped by 25% while the cost of a college degree has risen by 1120%. Tell me again how poverty-wage workers just need to "get an education?"

That's only one of the things they need for success. They also need determination, a willingness to take risks and luck.


It depends on how big the gap is. If the risk is going to be that you spend 60 years getting there, and you might still not make it, then it's not really a risk of failure. It's a guarantee.

Either A: you don't make it at all

Or B: you make it, but arrive too late in life to really enjoy the benefits.

The minimum pay has to be great enough that a person could save enough to take the risk within a human lifetime. Either that, or the average human lifespan needs to get longer. If I had 2000 years to live, I wouldn't care if it took me half a century to get to my goal.


We can discuss the possibility of saving all that money and then using it to help my offspring take a risk, but then we're putting the outcome in the hands of two or more decision makers who have to work in unison. Randomly it is unlikely that any two people would agree on one goal to that level of commitment.

Many children of a parent who has attempted this have done like that kid in the movie "Dead Poet Society". (Not sure if you've seen it, but if you have seen it then you'll know what I mean.)


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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 9:09 am
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Why has this thread transformed into a discussion about the feasibility of becoming a millionaire or tycoon?

That's not what most people aim for and that's not what the type of job implied by the government's reference to "skills shortage" promise in return.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 3:26 pm
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billvon wrote:
iNow wrote:
Since 1978, the real value of the minimum wage has dropped by 25% while the cost of a college degree has risen by 1120%. Tell me again how poverty-wage workers just need to "get an education?"

That's only one of the things they need for success. They also need determination, a willingness to take risks and luck.

I don't disagree, but this reply from you is tangential to the core point and peripheral to what's actually being discussed here... namely that the deck is more heavily stacked against people who do and have all of those things than it was relative to functionally and motivationally equivalent people in the past, also that this trend has been worsening since the 1970s.

billvon wrote:
iNow wrote:
Sure, but you were commenting specifically about janitors not wanting to go to school as if laziness is somehow the key variable at play.

For some it is; for others it is not. In my experience I've only met one janitor who was kept in his job by a lack of innate skill; the rest simply were passing through the job or valued other things more highly than financial success (like drinking with their buddies.)

Do you acknowledge that your personal experience and a small handful of anecdotes is not enough to overturn or render moot the significant data in this space? Any of us can cite exceptions, but their relevance is minimal in the face of overwhelming and convergent metrics across research domains and study topics.

billvon wrote:
You can complete primary education for free in the US and get a degree for less than $1500 a year.

Poverty wage in the US in 2013 for a single individual is $11,888, which is well below what living wage calculators that account for food and living costs and similar survival requirements tell us is needed to get by.

A person would need to work approximately 3 minimum wage jobs to reach the living wage threshold, and despite this you seem to suggest it's reasonable for a person working 3 jobs and with no disposable income or wage cushion to both attend school AND pay the (bare minimum of) $1500 to do it.

Leaving aside how there are only 24 hours in a day and working multiple jobs would occupy most of them, leaving no time to rest, recover, or ever get sick, from a purely financial standpoint you're suggesting that a person already struggling to pay for food and shelter should also allocate 15% more of an already low income to education (which actually costs much more than $1500 once you account for books, materials, fuel, and opportunity cost).

Is it possible you truly don't realize the unreasonableness of your claim and how unrealistic your position on this subject actually is in our modern world?

http://livingwage.mit.edu/
https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/threshld/

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kojax
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 27, 2014 3:36 am
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Rory wrote:
Why has this thread transformed into a discussion about the feasibility of becoming a millionaire or tycoon?

That's not what most people aim for and that's not what the type of job implied by the government's reference to "skills shortage" promise in return.



It does seem tangiental, but one of the main issues is the ability for new entrepreneurs to rise up and start businesses and enter the various markets. If only a few businesses control a market, and it isn't feasible for a newcomer to enter, then those businesses gain something called "market power".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_power

If they have market power, then they can force the wage down for any skilled profession, regardless of that skillset's actual value. Once the wage goes down, people will lose interest in studying that field, and then it will become scarce.

The only effective way to counter market power is to have a large number of bidders bidding for the commodity in question. So you need lots of competitors operating in the same field, each wanting to recruit the best talent, and each trying to outbid the others.


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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Dec 27, 2014 9:27 am
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Or you could give up on the delusion that free market economics is capable of directing the type and condition of work available. If you want an economy underpinned by a strong STEM sector that invests in infrastructure that citizens actually need rather than pandering to the whims of market forces who would have that money diverted to strip clubs, gambling shops and more off licences - then that requires greater state control of the economy.

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billvon
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Fri Jan 02, 2015 9:25 pm

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iNow wrote:
Poverty wage in the US in 2013 for a single individual is $11,888, which is well below what living wage calculators that account for food and living costs and similar survival requirements tell us is needed to get by.

A person would need to work approximately 3 minimum wage jobs to reach the living wage threshold, and despite this you seem to suggest it's reasonable for a person working 3 jobs and with no disposable income or wage cushion to both attend school AND pay the (bare minimum of) $1500 to do it.

Leaving aside how there are only 24 hours in a day and working multiple jobs would occupy most of them, leaving no time to rest, recover, or ever get sick, from a purely financial standpoint you're suggesting that a person already struggling to pay for food and shelter should also allocate 15% more of an already low income to education (which actually costs much more than $1500 once you account for books, materials, fuel, and opportunity cost).

Is it possible you truly don't realize the unreasonableness of your claim and how unrealistic your position on this subject actually is in our modern world?

Or it is possible that you are not doing the math correctly. Let's take a simple example in a city I used to frequent.

Average janitorial wage in the US in $25,834 (salary.com)
Living wage for Fresno, California for a single person is $19,132 (livingwage.mit.edu)
Delta - $6702

Tuition at Fresno City College $1324 - (fresnocitycollege.edu) for less than half time student
Books and supplies estimate $1262 (from same website)
Transportation estimate $1258

Total $3844 in increased expenses for college

Left over - $2858 a year


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Skills shortage?  |  Posted: Sat Jan 03, 2015 12:38 am
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I was speaking about low-wage workers, in general. Is our intent here to actually discuss janitors specifically? If so, then I clearly missed the point of the thread as that seems like it could be a rather boring and one-dimensional conversation, but I'm willing to have it if that's where you want to take this. Just let me know.

Again, when I posted, my intent was to discuss and refer to the broader issues of low-income workers and poverty wages and some of the systemic and cultural obstacles preventing hard work from paying off like it used to a generation ago, not to discuss the salary or income of a janitor specifically.

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