My brother Tom, a former journalist and businessman, may have put his finger on part of the problem with matching skilled workers and jobs. Here’s what he says:
Manufacturers keep sending out stories about how they cannot find qualified workers, Marinette Marine being the latest.
I have a feeling the new culture and practice of layoffs in manufacturing may be largely responsible.
A little story. My next door neighbor Paul. Good guy. High school graduate. Grew up on a farm so he works like hell and can fix anything. He worked mostly for the ship yards in Sturgeon Bay. He got tired of being laid off every two or three years, so he got a job as a caretaker for a condo project. In the real esate downturn they outsourced his job.
Now he is in his 50s and is starting a landscape maintenance business. He said he could go back to the shipyards. They
are hiring. But he knows he would be laid off again when current contracts run out. Then where will he be, in his mid to late 50s with no job?
It’s hard to realize that this layoff thing is pretty new. I remember being part of a small group of men in Evanston in the late 80s. One of the members became president of United Airlines. He came to our meeting one week and told us he had just laid off 5,000 employees. I was shocked. Could not
Just few years before business people were talking about
emualting the Japanse model of guaranteed life-time work with an employer. Wow, did that change.
I can only guess how painful layoffs are for small businessmen who take a real, personal, human responsibility for their workers. But it seems to me that in larger businesses layoffs have become a routine practice, a fiscal management tool.
It is part of a total corporate culture that has changed remarkably fast during globalization. It is a culture in which workers are expendable, or interchangeable, or variable costs. The almost complete destruction of the union system is part of it.
Young people see this when they are thinking about career paths. I think they look at today’s corporate culture, and particularly the manufacturing culture where layoffs seem routine, and they just decide against it.
They would rather take another path where they hope to find more security and perhaps even an environment which cares about them as people.
Why invest in getting all those skills manufacturers say they want and need when they know they will be discarded the moment things turn down?
> I think this is a serious consequence of globalization which
manufacturers must own. They are no longer the desirable employers they were 30 years ago.