Saturday, December 13, 2008

Talent Shortage: Central PA

Government agencies and the business community are scouring the hillsides of Central Pennsylvania in search of the underemployed:

For many business executives, these efforts are about maintaining daily operations. For the region, this may be about something more: long-term competitiveness. The York County military contractor Gichner Shelter Systems is preparing to reach out to Hispanic York residents to solve a workforce problem that could otherwise force the company to shift some operations elsewhere.

"We'd have to outsource ... whole functions and whole departments," said Tom Mills, Gichner's president and chief executive officer.

Reaching out to The Invisible Workforce - the legions of underemployed city residents in Central Pennsylvania - is not the only solution to the region's chronic shortage of skilled labor. But business leaders increasingly see it as an important component.

A "chronic shortage of skilled labor" is a phrase I wouldn't expect to read during a severe recession. But comparisons to the major economic downturns of the past ignore today's demography. The sharp rise in unemployment is real enough, but some sectors of enterprise continue to struggle to find bodies (more appropriately, minds).

Instead of "job creation", "workforce retraining" is the mantra. Indian tech companies dealt with their labor crunch without much (if any) government assistance. The outsourcing of workforce training to public schools and institutions of higher learning is increasingly inefficient. Of course, smaller businesses cannot afford to take on such costs. But more innovation in the area of labor mobility might present a solution even in that case.

No comments: