To get the workers you need, you must train them

May 10, 2013

In his May 6 op-ed column, “The scarcity of confidence,” Robert J. Samuelson asserted that factors other than a skills gap are responsible for the lack of hiring by U.S. businesses.

It’s neither lack of employer confidence nor a skills gap that plagues U.S. industries; it’s a training gap. Building skills begins with training, and public schools, universities and governments are not doing enough of it. Until we put the burden on those who train rather than those who need to be trained, we’ll never solve the problem facing U.S. business today.

Siemens Corp. couldn’t find the people needed to work at our expanded Charlotte plant. Now, we work with Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina to build the required skills. We set up an apprenticeship program, spending $165,000 per high school student over a three-year period, to fill the pipeline. That’s a lot of money to spend if finding workers is such a breeze.

This experience is echoed by an August survey of Business Roundtable member companies that found that America’s leading companies across a range of industries are facing a shortage of trained workers.

It’s no longer enough to fall back on the lament that there aren’t enough skilled workers. The easiest way to close the skills gap is for schools, government and industry to work together to close the training gap.

Eric Spiegel, Washington

The writer, president and chief executive of Siemens Corp., is vice chairman of the Business Roundtable’s Education and Workforce Committee.

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