Without swift and effective action the skills shortages hitting North America will worsen. Charlene Solomon looks at how the governments are handling this potential crisis
As many HR professionals are already aware, the US and Canadian governments are facing skills gaps and critical shortages within their countries. Information technology (IT) skills, for one, are in great demand. According to former US Secretary of Commerce, William Daley, there will be approximately 1.3 million unfulfilled IT jobs in all sectors of the US economy over the next ten years, a figure based on a joint survey from the Information Technology Association of America and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
But there are other skills in short supply too, ranging from information security personnel, energy and telecommunications to transportation. And according to the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), based in Washington, general literacy and mathematics skills, teaching, accounting, welding and machinists are lacking; as are general analytic, problem-solving and critical thinking skills, says Cynthia Pantazis, director of policy and public leadership for ASTD.
So, what are the governments attempting to do to combat what may become an even more serious problem?
They are trying various ways to bridge the skills gap before it gets even wider. One of these is "job shadowing", which allows college students to "shadow" members of company IT staffs to see what they are doing and learn from the experience. There are also large funding programmes under way offering scholarships to students who make a commitment to work at federal agencies in exchange for the grant monies. In addition, the US government is putting $3m into grants to help retrain downsized employees and $8m into a Website that helps to create resumes and job listings.
Another massive effort is the US Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of August 1998, designed to streamline and improve public sector employment and training. The idea behind the WIA is that trainers, public officials, businesses and teachers will develop a new system to improve the quality of t