is world unemployment or a worker shortage the issue?

Thursday 29 October, 2009

I saw this presentation by Dr. Edward Gordon organized by the Independent Writers of Chicago (IWOC): Taming the Talent Revolution: Thriving in the Brave World of Work.  He posited that despite rising unemployment in much of the world, the most pressing problem is an impending labor shortage.  The bottom line is the future is in technology & our workforce is not yet trained to handle many technology jobs.  There are 3 trends at work which create a jobs paradox:

  1. technology raises the bar for skills & we are missing the middle layer of technicians trained by career academies/trade schools
  2. baby boomers can no longer afford to retire (15% of college graduates are functionally illiterate, but the #1 major these days is communications)
  3. globalization is leading employers to export good jobs abroad.   Intel couldn’t find 2000 qualified engineers in California & Texas, so they had to go to Dresden, Germany to find the talent they sought.  Ironically, the dual education system in Germany is dying so that now German students can more easily change academic tracks.  1/2 million workers are returning to India & China, but only 60 of 600 engineers in China & 100 out of every 400 in India are well-qualified.

There are currently 3 million vacant jobs for which there are no qualified applicants, which will balloon to 12-24 million in years to come.  Gordon gave the example of Santa Ana California, which lost many jobs in the 1990’s.  The local chamber of commerce organized a Community Based Organization (CBO) of 300 public & private organizations to work together to solve the employment problem.   He proposes these CBO’s as the bridge to the future.


  • overeducated applicants is not the problem because there will be labor shortages soon.
  • while 20,000 journalists are out of work, the future lies in tech writing.
  • despite the number of authors writing books is increasing, we are creating an anti-writing culture.
  • breakthroughs in green technologies will create opportunties
  • better teaching is needed
  • potential new markets are:
  1. repairing bad websites
  2. working with foreign businesses
  3. writing for corporate training



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