Friday, June 5, 2009

Toughest Jobs to Fill

by Olga LaPlante

According to this article, these are the toughest jobs to fill: engineers, nurses, technicians, teachers and sales representatives. Who would have thought?

Well, the engineer bit is quite expected. Lots to learn, a lot of students prefer liberal arts (although the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, do you agree?), and most importantly, employers want an experienced and talented engineer, trained in a variety of fields - who has the money and time for that? - and as baby boomers are retiring there will be more open positions.

The second job, according to this article, is nurses. The problem with these guys is there are not enough nurse educators to train enough people to fill in the slots. How curious is that?

Teachers - it's pretty clear, low salaries, higher education degrees, but I would like to know where that shortage is, just in case. With the infamous "cliff in funding" coming in two years, that's definitely a good thing to know.

All of the above are reasonable, and the lack or hardships of higher education are somewhat present throughout the top 2 and the fourth one (teachers). But this bit came as a surprise and wake-up call at the same time. I actually was in a discussion around that last summer when I was in Russia. My parents' neighbor has a 13-year kid, who is not particularly interested in schooling. One might say, that 13 is too early to get sleepless about the college costs, but he is already considering options for his child. Truth is, unless you are among the top half students, chances are you won't get into a good university or college for free - yes, there is such thing as free higher education in Russia. So, the dilemma he is dealing with is this. He runs a business, some construction or some manufacturing, I never was curious enough to pry, and he didn't volunteer, and he says it's so hard to find a good, experienced technician (such as crane operators, or welders). It's impossible to find a young reliable technician period. Why? Because the young people are after quick, clean (white-collar) and "important" jobs, like accountants, financial folks (working in banks, even if you are a teller, is soooo prestigious!), and lawyers. A lot of them are struggling to find a job now. But few people decide to do the grunt work.

The article supports the same view:
Like workers in skilled trades, technicians are trained at vocational schools, and they're in short supply because so many high school students are encouraged to go to four-year colleges instead.
How does that sit with the intentions of the DOE in Maine to make every student go on to college? Is it best intentions or denial of reality?

What are your thoughts?

CEOs Without College Degree

1 comment:

Jim Burke said...

Olga . . interesting questions. Dennis Redovitch is one person I've followed for some time who has been looking into these issues. You might be interested in reading some of his work at

Gerald Bracey is another questioning the prevailing view:

And check out the work of Marion Brady:

I do think there is a need to go beyond the rhetoric and to question the motives of university, corporate, and governmental authorities in promoting that everyone needs to go to college . . . no matter what the purpose.

There is a need to question the idea of everyone doing the same old thing, only earlier and faster.

Yes . . . I'm a big believer in the idea of us all being life-long learners, but I would argue that in this era of digital technology, there are many ways of becoming more skilled and more capable without being a slave to corporate and governmental interests. It is time to question these assumptions.

I simply don't buy that U.S. Citizens are not skilled and hard workers. And I do trust that public schools are doing the best they can given increasing bureaucratic control by academics, corporations, and governmental officials who seem to think they know best about what is good for us.

Now don't get me wrong . . I'm not a pointy-headed libertarian. Am I in favor of social security, universal health care, environmental laws and laws to protect the weaker from the powerful? Sure, but I'm not in favor of federal mandates in education because it restricts our potential in the area of citizenship. I keep using Eisenhower's quote, but I think it is important:

"A distinguishing characteristic of our nation — and a great strength — is the development of our institutions within the concept of individual worth and dignity. Our schools are among the guardians of that principle. Consequently . . . and deliberately their control and support throughout our history have been — and are — a state and local responsibility. . . . Thus was established a fundamental element of the American public school system — local direction by boards of education responsible immediately to the parents of children. Diffusion of authority among tens of thousands of school districts is a safeguard against centralized control and abuse of the educational system that must be maintained. We believe that to take away the responsibility of communities and states in educating our children is to undermine not only a basic element of our freedoms but a basic right of our citizens. "