Texas and Germany Face Labor Shortage for the Same Reason

The coming labor shortage reported on extensively at Construction Citizen, another website I write for, isn’t confined to the United States.  Germany, an economic powerhouse like Texas, now has its economic performance threatened because the country’s businesses can’t find enough skilled laborers.

If this doesn’t drive home the point, perhaps nothing will: The head of Germany’s Labor Office, Frank-Jürgen Weise, says “the skills squeeze could hinder the German economy more than the debt crisis.”

Among the biggest reasons for the shortage: A failure to educate enough young people to meet industry’s needs.  The Global Post article quotes Stefan Hardege, head of the German Chamber of Commerce’s labor market unit, as stating: “Every third company we surveyed said that they saw the skills shortage as one of the biggest risks to the development of their business over the next 12 months.”   Weiss also predicted that by the year 2025, Germany will be short on labor to the tune of about 3 million workers.

Sound familiar?

Right here in Texas, the debate could boil over in Austin next year over ending the “college-for-all” crusade. The state has come under increased criticism for pushing all students toward four-year institutions instead of also carving out a path for some to enter the skilled trades.  It’s been cited repeatedly as the main reason for simultaneous high unemployment and a worsening labor shortage.

Former Cy-Fair Superintendent David Anthony tells Construction Citizen that “Creating greater access to Career and Technical Education courses is critical to our students, public education and the Texas economy.”

Anthony, who now leads a school advocacy organization called Raise Your Hand Texas, added that there’s no intent to under-emphasize the academic preparation that our students need, but Career and Technology Education, which you might know better as vocational or vo-tech, is now focused on preparing students for post-secondary education.

Study after study backs this up. For example, the McKinsey Global Institute found that while low-skill jobs are on the decline, by 2020 employers will need an estimated 45 million more mid-level workers who have a high school education and vocational training.  Researchers at Harvard last year found that “we place far too much emphasis on a single pathway to success: attending and graduating from a four-year college.”   Thirty percent of the 47 million new jobs expected to be created in the U.S. by 2018 will only require an associate’s degree or a certificate.

“The entire nation is facing the dilemma of an unprepared work force in the coming years.  Many of the Career and Technologies high schools programs prepare students for the fast growth, high wage jobs,” Anthony said.


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