Monday, August 20, 2012

A Lesson from the Woodward Dream Cruise: Employers Need to Restore Training Programs

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

I was almost late for my flight driving past what I later learned to be the nation's first highway. I had no idea the Woodward Dream Cruise, an event that attracts 1.5 million visitors and fills local streets with over 40,000 classic cars and hot rods, was taking place only miles from our Troy, MI headquarters. As I passed these beautifully restored vehicles from an era gone by, the scene became the inspiration for this week's blog.

The Woodward Dream Cruise
An article by Paul Davidson was recently forwarded to me by a colleague that further supports my posts about the need for employers to get involved when it comes to training. The article is best summed up by a quote from Peter Cappelli, a management professor at Wharton School and author of, Why Good People Can't Get Jobs. Cappelli says that employers "want people to hit the ground running. They don't want to train people."

So true a statement, it hurts. It hurts educated, hands-on job seekers that were once team leaders or project managers. It especially hurts those who are nearly there but are rejected because they don't have the 'perfect, predefined skill set'; an employer luxury that grew into an epidemic mindset during the Great Recession and remains for many.

Like I've said time and time again; the days of finding the perfect candidate are over. And likely, until attitudes change, we'll remain mired in a sluggish economy.

During my visit to Troy, where automotive engineering staffing is the primary focus, I was engaged in a discussion about the lack of employer supported training available to IT professionals with a member of the local management team. I argued that employers are contributing, if not causing, the 'free agent' worker mentality about which they complain in IT staffing. They do not want to invest in their employees. The epidemic is not confined to any one industry. The same is true of employers in his industry.

A few automotive OEMs have dedicated academies and mechatronics programs to train their engineering and skilled workforces on the latest industry technology and trends. In reality, these programs are few and far between. Is it purely coincidence that one of these companies, VW, is gaining market share?

In India, China, Malaysia, and other up and coming technical hubs, schooling and industry are focused, from early learning through college, on providing current and relevant skills to students and workers to meet today's worldwide technical resources and engineering needs. Unfortunately for employers in these countries, they often lose their top homegrown talent to the Western world. Not for lack of training, but due to the lengths companies are willing to go (and pay) in order to secure desperately needed talent.

Is it coincidence that, while our unemployment rate hovers around 8.3 percent, many employers here are lobbying for more visas to access this talent?

Is it any coincidence that India has experienced some of the highest GPD growth (nearly 8.0 percent a year over the past 10 years - and yes, the similarity in percentage values appears to be coincidence)?

We have some of the top engineering, technical and skilled talent here domestically. We've just forgotten that they need training. Not a complete overhaul of their education, just a tune-up or skill set modification. Did I mention the fact that many of these candidates also have years of leadership and strategic thinking experience?

Yes, training costs money. Unemployed / underemployed workers often don't have enough for an oil change let alone a certification or training course.

Where does that leave us?

Until employers return to the attitudes that gained them loyal workforces, dedicated to the company and learning everything they could to help it grow and succeed; until they return to a time where training is what helped build all of the beautiful machines I've just passed for 38 miles; we'll remain locked in a stalemate.

Why scrap a potentially beautiful car when it is structurally sound and missing a part or two? The folks participating in the Dream Cruise didn't. With some time, effort and investment they restored their vehicles to their former glory and, often times, make them perform even better. And they continue to nurture these vehicles after the restoration work is done.

Employers would be wise to follow their example.