12 October 2011

Does the US Lack Skilled Workers?

ABC News has this interesting perspective on US issues associated with immigration of skilled workers and the national skill base:
The State Department might sound like a strange place for the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to hold a listening session with the heads of foreign companies that invest in the United States, but hearing their comments it all made sense.

The business executives said they want to invest more in the United States, but cited ongoing concerns about weak U.S. infrastructure, their difficulties in finding a skilled workforce and resolving issues with visas for their employees.

“The issue that we have is finding skilled workers,” said Christian Turnig from ThyssenKrupp, a German company.

According to Turnig, his company had to send hundreds of employees from its new plant in Alabama to Germany for several months of training.   He said his company would have preferred to do the training in the United States, but it was unable to get visas for their German employees to enter the U.S.
And on skilled workers (emphasis added):
Martin Daum, the head of Daimler Trucks North America, told the gathering that he felt he had better skilled workers at his plants in Mexico than in the United States, where some workers have to be taught proper math and writing skills.

He said that America produces highly educated professionals, but knowledge can be lacking when it comes to hiring for vocational jobs. According to Daum, the better skill sets of Mexican workers makes it easier to ramp up production at his company’s factories in Mexico than those in the United States.

“We have to bring in educators,” he said.
Meanwhile in Florida Governor Rick Scott seems to have heard these sorts of messages and suggests a remedy:
[Gov.] Scott said Monday that he hopes to shift more funding to science, technology, engineering and math departments, the so-called “STEM” disciplines. The big losers: Programs like psychology and anthropology and potentially schools like New College in Sarasota that emphasize a liberal arts curriculum.

“If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education then I’m going to take that money to create jobs,” Scott said. “So I want that money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state.”

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”
I think that STEM vs. liberal arts is to miss the real problem here.