The Widespread Drought of Skilled Workers is Forcing Small Businesses to Ramp Up Training

Date: February 07, 2017

Owners have been able to hire more people recently, but the talent pool is a lot shallower.

Small businesses are wading through the masses to find the right workers, but they’re not having much luck. 

As a result, owners are taking more time to train workers compared with a year ago, according to The Wall Street Journal. These results came from a WSJ/Vistage International survey overseen by the University of Michigan’s Richard Curtin, a research associate professor.

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According to the survey, 25 percent of respondents said their company is spending significantly more time on training than they were a year ago. Thirty-eight percent said they were spending a little more time, and 34 percent said they were spending the same amount of time.

“The biggest challenge confronting firms is their need to expand hiring in an already-tight labor market,” Curtin said. 

This “tightness” is reflected in Labor Department numbers. Unemployment peaked in October 2009 at 10 percent but was at 4.8 percent last month. 

But the lack of skilled workers hasn’t stopped small businesses from trying to hire. NFIB reports 53 percent of small businesses surveyed are hiring or trying to hire, but 47 percent said available skilled workers were scarce or not qualified. 

“Fifteen percent of small business owners said that finding qualified workers was their single biggest problem,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said. “That’s an increase from the previous month and more proof that the labor market is getting tighter.” 

This isn’t a new problem, either. In 2013, staffing and recruiting firm Robert Half conducted a survey in which it found 60 percent of business owners reported finding qualified workers was their biggest obstacle when hiring.

The numbers vary depending on the industry, but manufacturing has particular difficulty in finding skilled workers because it’s not as prevalent now to train in those areas as it was in the past. 

“We feel like we have to do more training when the labor market tightens, because you can’t find a person who can do the job right off the bat,” Brad Mountz, president and CEO of Mountz, told The Wall Street Journal. “We’ve close to quadrupled our training budget to ensure people are capable of doing their jobs.” 

Related: 

Infographic: Where Are the Good Workers?

Analysis: U.S. Manufacturers Having Trouble Finding Qualified Employees

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