Thursday 31 May 2012

Major economies need more skilled workers, engineers: study

By Nick Zieminski, Reuters, 29 May 2012

The United States and other large economies cannot find enough skilled workers, engineers and other in-demand employees, according to an annual study on talent shortages.

The study, by staffing services giant ManpowerGroup (MAN.N), found 34 percent of employers around the world report trouble filling jobs because of a lack of available talent. The percentage is unchanged from 2011 but up from the prior three years.

However, most of the employers -- 56 percent -- say unfilled jobs are likely to have little or no impact on customers and investors. That is up from 36 percent who said so a year ago.

Talent shortages persist despite high unemployment in many economies, especially among young people. Employers are more comfortable conducting business in an environment of talent shortages and remain reluctant to add workers while memories of recession are fresh, according to Manpower.

"Leaving positions unfilled may be a short-term fix, but it's a short-sighted and unsustainable approach to addressing talent shortages," Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres said.

The top reasons for not filling jobs include a lack of available applicants; too few hard skills, such as speaking a foreign language among those who do apply; and a lack of experience. Smaller numbers of employers complained about deficiencies in applicants' soft skills, such as showing too little enthusiasm.

Manpower polled 40,000 employers in 41 countries and territories.


Skilled trade workers have topped the most in-demand list in four of the past five years. Educational systems around the world are emphasizing four-year university educations, while allowing vocational and technical programs to decline.

As fewer young people pursue technical educations and more older skilled workers retire, such shortages are likely to persist, the study predicts.

Other in-demand jobs in 2012 are sales representatives, technicians, drivers, laborers and information technology staff. Accounting and finance workers, chefs and managers round out the top 10.

Employers in Japan were the most likely to say they are having trouble finding staff, followed by those in Brazil, Bulgaria, Australia and the United States, where 49 percent report difficulty, down from 52 percent last year.

While technical and business-oriented job categories top most countries' lists, employers in the United States, Singapore and India, among others, say they cannot find enough teachers. Nurses are also in demand.

Several European countries, including Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, ranked at the bottom of the list, with fewer than one in 10 employers struggling to find the right workers.

Manpower also asked about responses to the talent shortage. The most frequent responses were employers offering more training to current staff, or broadening their search outside their local regions. Others put people into positions for which they are not fully qualified, hoping they'll learn on the job.

Higher pay, at least for now, is not a common response to the talent shortage. Only 8 percent of global employers are boosting starting salaries, and only 7 percent are offering better benefits or signing bonuses.

Hiring crunch here easing, survey shows
Over a third of firms facing hiring problems, down from 44% in 2011
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 30 May 2012

THE hiring crunch here is easing, although more than a third of employers still struggle to fill jobs, a survey by a global human resources firm has revealed.

ManpowerGroup, which surveyed 624 employers in the first quarter of this year, found 37 per cent facing hiring problems. This is down from the 44 per cent who did so last year, and 53 per cent the year before.

But the 37 per cent figure is still higher than the global average of 34 per cent.

Recruitment firm Adecco also says Singapore's talent shortage has eased slightly, but says it remains a concern.

On the other hand, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents about 145 trade associations and 4,000 firms, is surprised that the hiring crunch has eased.

President Teo Siong Seng says pockets of employers are still having trouble finding workers, particularly for manual jobs. He said if the hiring crunch has eased, it could be because some firms have slowed down their hiring, or are outsourcing jobs.

Singapore National Employers Federation executive director Koh Juan Kiat agreed that slower jobs growth might explain the apparent easing of the hiring crunch. In the first three months of this year, 27,400 new jobs were created, down from the 37,600 created in the last quarter of last year.

For the first time, production operators topped the list of jobs which are hardest to fill. This is so because such jobs involve shift work and the factories tend to be in far-flung places, said Mr Teo.

Even printing firm Winson Press, located relatively centrally in Kallang, has problems filling its vacancies.

Chief executive Tan Jit Khoon has had to turn to foreign workers instead; most of his 50-odd production operators are non-Singaporean.

Engineers and sales representatives - ranked the two toughest positions to fill in previous years - now rank third and fifth respectively.

Of the top 10 jobs which are hardest to fill, only one is new to the list - insurance employees such as qualified brokers and clerks.

In terms of jobs in general, nearly four in 10 employers said they are not getting enough applicants.

Some job seekers have unrealistic expectations; others prefer to wait for that perfect job to come along, said Singapore Human Resources Institute executive director David Ang.

Job image is also an issue, said Mr Tan, in reference to the impression that factories are 'hot and dirty' places. Many do not realise that this is no longer the case, he said.

Another factor behind the hiring crunch is that applicants lack the technical skills for the job at hand, said 14 per cent of the employers surveyed.

But ManpowerGroup's Singapore manager Linda Teo, warning against employers' simply accepting the situation, said: 'Employers may not think leaving important positions unfilled is a problem now, but they will in years to come, when it will be too late.'

A fifth of employers are tackling the problem by partnering with educational institutions to get talent.

Adecco South-east Asia regional director Lynne Ng has another strategy for full-time posts: outsource the job or make it a contract position.

Hardest posts to fill

1. Production operators

2. Accounting and finance staff

3. Engineers

4. Secretaries, personal assistants, administrative assistants and office support staff

5. Sales representatives

6. Drivers

7. Skilled trades workers

8. Teachers

9. Insurance staff

10. Technicians

Matching skills with employer demand
Editorial, The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2012

IN TIMES of high unemployment, it is disconcerting for job seekers to learn of available jobs going unfilled when employers say they cannot find the right people. If the unsuccessful had the right education, it was lack of experience that let them down. The former is a structural matter, while the latter speaks of a short-sightedness among human resource people. Neither is easy to fix.

The newest survey by ManpowerGroup, an American recruitment firm, has found that a skills mismatch has grown worldwide, even as tertiary enrolments have risen in all major economies. It is a paradox. Asian economies with high demand were predictably worst off, with 45 per cent of employers reporting they could not get the workers they needed. The figure was one-third in the 41 nations and territories surveyed. In Japan, engineers are in short supply. Hong Kong and Taiwan could do with more sales people. Singapore has vacancies for factory production operators and teachers as well as finance workers and engineers. China wants technicians, lots of them.

The situation should not be left to fester if Asia is to grow into the bulwark that is to ward off global recession. Yet there are no easy answers. There is not even consensus that a skills mismatch is deepening unemployment. Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and independent economists disputed the validity of a skills gap. They suggested that some employers may not be trying hard enough to get the right workers, at a price they would bear.

This assertion has a familiar ring to youngish Singaporeans who are said to be particular about the terms offered while also being disdainful of the cheaper foreign competition. But the skills gap is not so easily discounted. The situation does call for government policymakers, educationists and private industry to examine underlying causes.

If research indicates that tertiary institutions are not keeping up with marketplace demands in their course planning, the private sector has a duty in offering to collaborate with universities by agreeing to work attachments as a requirement towards a degree. This is what practice-oriented institutions do. Singapore is close to a decision on such a university, on top of its excellent polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education system.

This approach is a higher-end equivalent of a proposal by Manpower chief executive Jeff Joerres that investments in vocational schools are necessary to address the gap between jobs and skills. He may be speaking principally of the United States, where tradesmen are most in demand, not financial mathematicians and health-care workers. But it is one piece in a complex whole that will continue to tax manpower planners.

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