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Are Certain Job Sectors in Need of “Talented” Job Seekers? (More than just a question of labor statistics!)

June 3, 2012

Talent Shortage?: “The problem, according to the survey, is a shortage of talent in certain areas.”

What is interesting here is not the article (many have stated similar analyses at various times over the past several years), but rather the comments to it (also not without common refrains, but important still for the presentation of counter-narratives). How can we gain a more nuanced understanding of job market dynamics? Are there any multi-level studies of both employers and potential (and possibly “let go”) employees? Ethnographies of job fair circuits? I know that geography is a part of this – e.g. people may find more work in their field if they move to another state or another city – but is that the crux of the rather divergent experiences? If so, are there organizations working to address this crucial dilemma, perhaps in a “Moving to Opportunity” for professionals and tradespersons sort of way?

Some responses theorize otherwise.

Dnietz (12:36 PM on 06/01/2012) said:

Every single one of those “careers” listed has recently had massive layoffs. There are plenty of out of work people in all those exact trades listed above.

What they do is take a job that has historically paid a certain amount (based on education/skill/experience), lay tons of people off, then offer a few of the jobs again at half the pay. Then they complain that they can’t fill positions.

ICraneKickFools (11:54 PM on 06/01/2012) said:

Remember when an employer would TRAIN employees & not necessarily expect people to be already qualified??

grod805 (11:33 PM on 06/02/2012) replied:

I was just talking to my parents about that. My dad said most people get the hang of a job in a couple of weeks and don’t need years of unpaid internships. I agree, its just taking advantage of people and the situation and everyone except the employer loses. Why hire someone for $50K a year when you can get two free interns to do it for them, without paying any benefits either?

What’s really going on?

What about these other factors, like the questions around “talent,” “experience,” training, hierarchy, and pay/benefits? Studies of higher education (e.g. Stainburn 2009) have shown that many colleges and universities now hire multiple adjunct or lecture positions in lieu of hiring full-time professors. Is there a similar trend in other employment sectors?

What social scientists are working on teasing out these issues? A basic search of recent (since 2008) publications suggests a significant amount of discussion through network theory frameworks and commentary on many non-North American contexts, but who’s really talking to employers and observing them in the U.S.? Who’s really talking to the un/employed and bringing their narratives into dialogue with those of employers in a critical way? How can we get beyond the surveys, polls, and reported numbers of hires vs. applicants vs. layoffs? How might current and future social scientists best go about studying these complex systems and circumstances?

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