The jobs-skills divide revisited

Tangentially related to what I wrote yesterday, Barry Ritholtz has a summation of papers submitted to a recent San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank conference on the “mismatches between the skills of jobseekers and the needs of employers.” Specifically there’s been some question about the degree to which our current (lack of) employment can be explained by such a mismatch. I noted that the Economic Policy Institute wasn’t convinced that it was a significant issue, and it seems that those at the SFFRB conference would agree (emphasis mine):

[…] These changes may have increased mismatches between employer needs and worker skills. In general, we find that this doesn’t appear to be the case. Estimates of the extent of skill mismatches in recent years indicate that it has been limited and is likely to dissipate. Moreover, the conference’s research presentations and a panel of workforce development specialists did not identify a noticeable increase in mismatches in recent years. Thus, concerns about growing skill mismatches may be overblown. On the other hand, successful integration of low-skilled workers into the workforce represents a continuing problem.

The summary has good details as to why “this doesn’t appear to be the case,” but I’d also highlight that the conference participants nevertheless discussed solutions to matching skills to employer needs – stressing the role of community colleges to provide technical bridges to employment. My eyes always catch this suggestion because I see my local “junior” college pursuing much the same goal. Most of their structural and curriculum expansions (with the exception of a new arts theater) has been directed towards fulfilling employment needs for our region.


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