Business leaders have to do a better job defining their interest in solving the "skills gap," said Eric Spiegel, President and CEO of Siemens Corporation at an NBC education forum Monday.
Spiegel, DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman and John H. Noseworthy, M.D., president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic, participated in a panel discussion in New York City at NBC New's Education Nation. Former TV anchor Tom Brokaw moderated the session, "Getting down to business: CEOs take on the education challenge," which delved deep into issues of STEM education -- science, technology, engineering and math -- the role of community colleges, and how business must take the lead in addressing demands for a skilled workforce. Spiegel commented:
I think we need to do a much better job of getting very specific about what the business community needs. What are the skills we require?
And again, particularly for us, it’s more around the production workers.
It’s not yet a difficult thing to find engineers with four-year degrees. That may become a problem in the near term. We’re not graduating enough engineers in this country.
What’s difficult to find is to find some people who’ve got some engineering background, maybe a two-year associate’s degree with some engineering, some computer science and things, who can actually run these plants. They’re plants that are very sophisticated.
This plant in Charlotte we’re talking about, everything is run by a computer, a robot or a laser. So you don’t see the traditional type of job you saw 15, 20 years ago.
Spiegel is referring to Siemens Energy's new turbine and generator plant in Charlotte, N.C. The company set up a training system similar to Germany's apprenticeship programs and is working closely with Piedmont Community College to ensure that new employees gain necessary skills. (NBC News story)
The importance of business working with community colleges is a recurring theme for CEOs when discussing how to develop a skilled workforce. That emphasis needs to be locally driven via "natural collaboration," Kullman said, creating partnerships with the schools. Still, Kullman stressed how DuPont is involved at the K-12 level -- where the company helped develop standards that led to Delaware's success in the "Race to the Top" program -- and she's the company's chief recruiter when talking to university students. "We have to be involved in every stage," she said.
A very thorough discussion.
Still, there's another aspect to education and workforce that did not make it into the conversation, an issue covered by Nick Schultz of the American Enterprise Institute in a recent Wall Street Journal column, "Hard Unemployment Truths About 'Soft' Skills ":
[Considerable] evidence suggests that many employers would be happy just to find job applicants who have the sort of "soft" skills that used to be almost taken for granted. In the Manpower Group's 2012 Talent Shortage Survey, nearly 20% of employers cited a lack of soft skills as a key reason they couldn't hire needed employees. "Interpersonal skills and enthusiasm/motivation" were among the most commonly identified soft skills that employers found lacking.
Employers also mention a lack of elementary command of the English language. A survey in April of human-resources professionals conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management and the AARP compared the skills gap between older workers who were nearing retirement and younger workers coming into the labor pool. More than half of the organizations surveyed reported that simple grammar and spelling were the top "basic" skills among older workers that are not readily present among younger workers.
CEOs would certainly acknowledge those major problems, as well. Indeed, Business Roundtable has identified reading proficiency by the end of the third grade as a top policy priority.
Below is the video from the NBC panel discussion.
Commissioner Mary Jo White -- US SEC not writing political spending rule http://t.co/p4oIgVWFMq Activist goal? Chill speech.
Tribute to Paul Otellini, retiring from @Intel after 39-year career, including as CEO. Congratulations. http://t.co/mFbYqg5Ds9
You may also be interested in the following related articles on Business Roundtable Today…
Search the Business Roundtable Today archive for interesting content.