employers want workers who they don’t have to train

The Washington Post has a great piece from Peter Cappelli about how the “skills shortage” that people like to blame on schools (and on college students’ choice of focus in their studies) is BS … and that the real issue is that employers just don’t want to train people anymore.

He rightly points out that the argument that there’s a skills shortage because schools aren’t properly preparing students for work falls apart when you realize that the reported “skills gap” is about all levels of hiring, not just for entry-level roles. And if employers are having trouble finding people at all career levels with the right experience, then the issue isn’t about what schools are doing.

He concludes: “What employers really want are workers they don’t have to train … Companies simply haven’t invested much in training their workers. In 1979, young workers got an average of 2.5 weeks of training a year. While data is not easy to come by, around 1995, several surveys of employers found that the average amount of training workers received per year was just under 11 hours, and the most common topic was workplace safety — not building new skills.”

Oh, and he also notes that 30% of U.S. employers acknowledge that job seekers were looking for more pay than they were willing to offer. Which might have something to do with an employer’s inability to find the right people.

It’s a great piece, and you should read the whole thing.

{ 379 comments… read them below }

  1. Jeanne

    I’ve heard it. “You can’t go to training. You have work to do.” Even anecdotally, on this site, we’ve seen letters about workers thrown into the job with not much training and floundering. I think the companies believe with the tough job market, they can ask for the world, offer low salary, and people will jump at it. It’s not true.

    Truly good employees know their worth. They will go where their worth is valued. Everyone else will get the remnants.

    1. Jeanne

      One more thing. The point the author made about hiring from outside is true. At my last company, you had to leave for about 2 years and come back to get a good promotion. It became a standard procedure. I don’t know that they really learned that many more skills doing the same job at another company but somehow they were more attractive candidates.

        1. Adam

          I’ve noticed that too and the size of the company doesn’t seem to matter. If you want better work/pay eventually it seems you have to go find it somewhere else. There’s a very large well-known employer in my area that has a quiet but notorious reputation for this. The general consensus among the staff seems to be you work your current position for 2 years or so and then you have to go apply somewhere, maybe even way across the company department line if you want to move up, as no one seems to just be promoted naturally along a measurable path.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        And in my field (IS/IT) – advancement and training are often obtained only by using the weapon of resignation.

    2. Jennifer

      The learning curve on my current job was over a year and a half. They trained me well on how to deal with paperwork, but not the other aspects of the job. I was thrown into the deep end in 2 months with practically no preparation and everyone has suffered for it, and it took a lot of trouble to finally convince them that they had to train me.

      I can see why employers don’t want to bother, especially when billions are out of work and they can have their pick without even blinking. But it sucks anyway when they can’t be bothered to do it, and even “experienced” people need some help.

      It seems like you can’t get a job any more unless you’ve already held that job, in full.

      1. PD

        “It seems like you can’t get a job any more unless you’ve already held that job, in full.”
        This. Plus if you’d held that exact job for 2 years or 5 years or however long they’re asking for, wouldn’t a lot people want to move up to something else rather than change to a job they already have?

          1. Jennifer

            Yeah, because there’s no other options! Too bad my current position is really specialized/not something I can do elsewhere and my previous field is a dying industry!

        1. ella

          Yeah. This expectation plus the crappy job market makes it so hard to move up. I keep interviewing for positions that are the next natural step up from what I’m doing now, and I never get hired in part because other people in the hiring pool are people who have done the job plus people who are overqualified. (I’ve had a couple of hiring managers tell me this, it’s not just me hypothesizing.)

    3. Maude

      I came here to say basically the same thing. I work in training/HR and have scheduled training, both internal and external time and again only to have the department manager tell me she can’t spare the employee to be away from work for training. The department managers have such tight budgets and restraints on hiring additional people that there is never a good time for employees to participate in training.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        That’s one thing I always liked about the university when I worked there: many of the training sessions are mandatory and the protestations of a reluctant departmental manager are futile.

      2. Generalist

        YES! We can’t even get most managers to allow their new hires to come to orientation on their first day. It’s incredibly frustrating.

      3. Non Profit Anon

        Sometimes the training can have measurable results almost immediately. A few years ago I took a four hour Excel class offered by my employer. Within the next month, I was able to increase my production on Excel documents to a level which equaled at least eight hours of work at my previous skill level.

    4. Gem

      Seriously. My company has just announced they want to bring junior devs in and train them, and to say we’re skeptical that people will be given time to train and to be trained is an understatement.

      1. BeenThere

        on noes! I think this is happening in my job too. I joined because everyone was an experienced dev in the team. They announced a grad program.. after seeing the code of the published Master student intern who had two years prior dev experience!! I don’t want any of them near my code base. I don’t have the time the clean up that many messes, their were SQL Injection vunerablities in the security application he wrote. *sigh*

    5. Vicki

      It’s worse than that sometimes.

      At LastJob, they sent out employee surveys once a year. A common response from employees was “We need more training”. So, managers agreed. They set up training classes. They said “Go”.

      In one specific case, I was the trainer. We set up a session. We scheduled in advance. In a department of 40 people I had two attendees, both of whom were work friend (and both already knew this material).

      It wasn’t the fault of the managers. It the employees themselves who said “We can’t go to those sessions. We have too much work to do.”

      1. quix

        Have you considered that they might actually have had too much work to do? And missing a training session isn’t going to go in a year-end-review like missing a deadline will.

        1. Mackenzie

          Which is *still* a management problem. They should build in a buffer for vacation time and training time. A week on vacation shouldn’t be preceded and followed by 60 hour weeks to make it up! Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell your boss “a lack of foresight on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

  2. DMC

    I think the article has some merit, but on the other hand, I believe that many applicants these day do lack specific general skills that can serve them well in a variety of jobs. For example, finding people who can write at least reasonably well seems difficult. Perhaps that has always been an issue. I don’t know, as I’ve only been around a few decades. However, it’s an example of a skill that really should be honed in high school or college (barring second language issues). Also, I find as our world gets more and more specialized in certain areas, there does become a need for folks who have highly-developed skills in specific areas, like, say employment and labor law. :) In more entry level jobs, I actually believe companies ARE willing to invest in training for the right person (i.e., affable, reliable, and honest) that might be willing to stick around more than a year or two.

    1. Helka

      In more entry level jobs, I actually believe companies ARE willing to invest in training for the right person (i.e., affable, reliable, and honest) that might be willing to stick around more than a year or two.

      Well, the article Alison linked shows that your belief seems to be incorrect, based on the numbers. What’s your basis?

      1. DMC

        Like most beliefs people hold, from my personal experiences with places I’ve worked. Only one wanted nothing to do with training and did a trail by fire technique. The others have been amenable to training and would love to train the right people rather than take on a fully trained, ill-tempered, unreliable person. Perhaps your experiences have been different?

        1. BR

          When I graduated from college (the first time, I’m back now to get another degree) most of the companies I looked at who had “entry level” positions available wanted 2-3 years experience for the position, which is completely contradictory to what entry level means. My school recently did a survey asking me if I felt they were preparing me well enough to enter the field and I made a comment that most companies don’t want to train new employees, they want them pre-trained.

    2. Mike C.

      I have a difficult time believing that “finding people who can write at least reasonably well” is difficult. All you hear about are those “dumb liberal arts majors” (we’ll set aside for a moment that mathematics and the sciences are also liberal arts…) who picked a dumb major and are now making coffee or french fries. Yet, aren’t those the kind of majors where you write the most? That a majority of projects, midterms and finals consist in whole or in part of essays and written reports and long papers?

      1. fposte

        I wonder, though, if we’re not talking about the difference between reasonably well for school and well enough to be paid for it. A lot of people in my area come from English backgrounds, and yet the ones who can really write clearly and quickly are pretty unusual. (Yeah, I know, academics, verbiage, etc.; I’m not even talking about that, though.)

        1. Kelly L.

          I think people who can write like stars might be small, but a lot of people can write competently enough for daily needs. Heck, just look at all the commenters here. The threads are full of people whose writing is fine, even though blog comments are dashed-off, casual writing, and I’m sure their professional writing is better. And a number of these folks are unemployed at any given time.

          Writing for a very specific field, of course, will have its own conventions, and people will have to be trained in it somehow, whether in higher education or on the job.

          1. Adam

            Right. When I hear “writes well” in a professional context, I picture someone who can communicate clearly in a written format. Any industry specific techniques, styles, or jargon are icing on the already substantial cake.

          2. College Career Counselor

            The commentariat here writes UNUSUALLY well, as a quick spin around the internet will indicate. Personally, I don’t think the majority of students write particularly well, having read their application essays, cover letters and professional statements for years. But, they’re not alone in this. As someone who reads a lot of lot of professional communication (not just student efforts), I still see a fair amount of poorly constructed, slap-dash text from people who’ve been in the working world for years. I don’t mean texts or IMs to colleagues asking quick questions–I’m talking memoranda, reports, press releases with typos, poorly-constructed sentences and grammatical issues. We’re all tasked with feeding the web content beast (probably using a phone), so “they’ll be able to figure out what I mean” is the new standard. And there I go again, yelling at people to get off the lawn! ;-)

        2. Rana

          Plus that basic writing as grammar skill set is not, properly speaking, a college-taught one, unless you’re taking remedial courses. College-level writing is supposed to focus on ideas and argumentation and research, perhaps organization and rhetoric, but not sentence structure and spelling and grammar except in the case of when someone’s so incompetent in those areas that it impedes their ability to do the higher order work. Basically, college assumes that you have the writing equivalent of being able to use a hammer and a screwdriver, and wants you to be working on more complex construction and design.

          Unfortunately, based on what I saw before I quit teaching, that sort of foundational writing instruction isn’t as common in K-12 as it used to be, even 10-15 years ago, and college writing programs can only do so much to take up the slack.

          1. Zillah

            This. And, because it’s not taught on its own merits as much anymore, teachers often have to balance teaching their subject (and helping their students get the knowledge they need to progress/pass the tests) and correcting their grammar. My partner’s been struggling with that a lot, because his students are having a hard enough time learning the subject and he doesn’t want to overwhelm them and discourage them.

          2. Jen

            OMG yes! I used to tutor students in college and remember helping a senior that was repeating her intro to English class to get a higher grade (D+ first time around). The professor noted that one of her biggest problems was subject-verb agreement. As much as I worked with her, she still struggled, so I took it back to basics and asked her to identify the subject and verb. Turned out she didn’t know what a subject and verb was. (And she didn’t care to know either – she was far enough along that she figured she was getting at least a C and was happy with that. *sigh*) And hey I’m not the grammar police or anything, I know my writing isn’t perfect, but that’s such a fundamental thing for a graduating college student to not know…

            There’s a lot that’s just let go. There was the guy in my grad. comm. class that plagiarized a two page report by copying and pasting from Wikipedia and turning it in. Thought the professor would rip him a new one, but nope, professor still gave him an A for the ‘interesting article he found’. And don’t get me started on the graduate applications and essays I used to process….

            1. J

              Yes, people definitely fall through the cracks. I had a fellow intern when I was in college who didn’t get writing help for serious difficulties (much like the ones Jen referred to) until her senior year spring semester – and only then because our internship supervisor called our university advisor and said that she wasn’t going to sign off on Jane successfully completing the internship (and thus fulfilling requirements to graduate) unless they arranged for her to get some tutoring to support the writing she was doing (and doing poorly) in the internship setting.

            2. Xarcady

              Having taught a great many sections of Freshman English while I was in grad school getting my “useless” MA in English, I can attest to the fact that a significant number of students graduate from high school without remembering what subjects and verbs are, as well as a great many other grammar and spelling rules. I’m sure they were *taught* these things. But they learn them for the test and then forget them.

              I would start off the first day of Freshman English with a grammar review, defining things like subject and verb.

              As to hiring for writing skills–I write at least on an average level, better than that for things like instructions and technical writing. I’m also good at database maintenance and supervising people and editing/proofreading, having had jobs that use all four skills.

              In my experience, no matter how much a job ad stresses that they want good written and oral communication skills, that’s not what they end up hiring for. Personally, I think it is easier to teach a new employee how to use a database, say, than how to write well, but the candidate with the specific skills gets hired over the one with the communication skills.

              1. ella

                I would never have been taught subject/verb and other parts of speech if not for Spanish-language classes and Madlibs. I never learned them in regular English class.

            3. Karowen

              To be fair, I didn’t know what a verb was until I took a French class in high school – they just didn’t see the need to teach it to us when we were kids. My French teacher had to teach us English grammar before she could teach us French. I still don’t really know the difference between adjective and adverb (I can guess, but definitely not with 100% confidence) and if I have to choose between diagramming a sentence and death by firing squad, just give me death by firing squad. That’s how it’ll end anyway and it’ll be less embarrassing for me. Yet I got a 710 in English on my SATs, majored in Public Relations and now work in Marketing – And I’m my office’s grammar guru.

              So she may have just not cared enough to learn, but it’s possible that she was never taught. And at some point you just stop caring and you stop wanting to learn – I got so frustrated with trying to figure out direct and indirect objects (which I still don’t get) that if you try to teach me now I’m about at the point where I don’t care. I’ve made it this far without actually knowing, haven’t I?

              1. frogbait

                To be fair, there’s very little structural difference between direct and indirect objects in English. The fact that anyone learns them has more to do with grammar being a subject that was historically applied to learning Latin, where the i.o./d.o. difference changes the casing of the noun. It’s interesting in terms of linguistic theory, and understanding that difference in your first language can be really helpful for learning a second language, but otherwise it’s not necessary to know the difference to use English competently. The more important part, I think, is reading lots of high quality writing.

            4. I'm a Little Teapot

              Gah! It’s not just me who’s seen this sort of thing in grad school! I had a group project in grad school where one of the other people I was working with wrote poorly – except for some paragraphs that were suspiciously more eloquent and polished. I popped a sentence into Google and – yep, it was copypasta from some article. After a session of saying “OMGWTF you are in GRAD SCHOOL asdlkfjalskj” to myself (and being livid that she’d risked getting not only herself but all her teammates flunked or expelled), I rewrote the purloined section and tried to explain to her that you Just Don’t Do That. She was surprised and puzzled.

              I also once was a receptionist for an academic program where we received an application with an “essay” consisting of three sentences handwritten in pencil on notebook paper.

              1. Melissa

                I don’t understand the students who do this and think that they’re not going to get caught. I mean…I read your papers all semester, and you’re a below-average writer, then suddenly for the final paper you have these polished and well-written (or at least average*) paragraphs in your work? Obviously they’re not yours!

                *Although sometimes the sources they plagiarized from are not well-written, either. One summer I had a student who plagiarized extensively from Wikipedia, and I spent about a page correcting their work before I decided to Google some sections and noticed where they came from. I reported it to my supervisor, who took it VERY seriously (best boss ever, for real) but also laughed because, he pointed out, I was even correcting Wikipedia! LOL.

            5. Linguist curmudgeon

              Holy crud, I want to stuff both Wikipedia guy and your prof in a garbage can. That’s terrible.

          3. Natalie

            When I edited my campus paper this was a huge problem, since we didn’t have a proper journalism program. Newspaper style is substantially different from academic style. Most of the drafts I got were basically essays and I spent a lot of time cutting independent clauses into separate sentences.

          4. Melissa

            Ugh yes. I taught social science classes that required the writing of research papers, and my goal was to teach ideas and argumentation and research – how to select a social science topic, thoroughly research it and defend it in a well-written paper. But I ended up spending a LOT of time on sentence structure and basic writing tasks. One summer I actually ended up offering a social science writing workshop because the students from the previous two summers were just so bad, on average, at college-level writing. And these were college juniors, seniors, and recent graduates – not the early students.

            I’m not sure what it is. They all had to take freshman composition!

        3. Cat

          This is my experience too. Plenty of people can write adequately, but truly great writers are unusual and highly valued. And not like John Steinbeck-great. Draft a readable document that conveys the relevant information in a reasonably persuasive manner-great.

        4. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep. It’s very, very hard to find people who write well enough to pay them for roles where writing is a key part.

          Painfully hard.

          I once got more than 500 applications for a writing role. Based on the writing samples they submitted with their applications, there were fewer than 10 in there who I wanted to interview. (And then still fewer after the process progressed.)

          It’s not that they were all awful; they weren’t. It’s that few are really good.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I got my job because of the editing sample I submitted (and your advice about how to ace interviews). I worked really hard on it.

            Personally, I think schools need to spend more time on grammar and usage in elementary and on business/real-world communication at the secondary level. If I have a kid, I want them to learn it even if I have to teach them myself.

      2. Colette

        Well, often businesses aren’t looking for people who can only write well – they need to be able to do the basic job and write well. That’s rarer than you’d expect.

        1. PlainJane

          To that I would add: sometimes employers define the basic job too narrowly. They want someone who knows this.exact.software.package – or often 2 or 3 of them–and who has very specific experience so they don’t have to provide training. Then they give short shrift to oral and written communication skills. The thing is, I can teach someone to use software. I can mentor someone who is in a stretch role. But I can’t teach that person how to speak and write well and work effectively with co-workers.

          1. Melissa

            THIS! A lot of my work is quantitative and I’ve seen a lot of employers who want to hire someone who already knows their niche or even proprietary statistical or database management software package. Um. Somebody who can use 3 or 4 statistical software packages already can probably learn your niche package very quickly! They all do the same stuff, they just use different syntax language.

          2. Mackenzie

            I got *really* lucky in interviewing for my current role. I didn’t know the main programming language used here when I was hired. The interviewer came in and told me he was going to quiz me on Perl. I told him, “I don’t know Perl.” “Why’d they send me in here?” “I don’t know, but I do script in Bash and Python, and I know regular expressions.” “Python and regex? Close enough.” He proceeded to do the interview having me answer in regular expressions (which I did know in Perl-syntax, because it’s become the standard far outside Perl) and Python, and I got the job. They never provided training on Perl, just trusted that any programmer can pick up a new language, and I’d get faster with time as I had fewer things I needed to look up in the documentation.

      3. De Minimis

        My feeling is people are more paying lip service to the need for writing skills, but in reality it’s not something that is valued that much by itself, at least not in my field.

        1. maggie

          I think I would have to agree with this statement. I have known many folks who can *barely* write an email, let alone author a report or narrative for any sort of process change. And I have worked in many different sectors and in many different roles.

        2. Jennifer

          I totally agree. Nobody needs a writer any more. Especially when some folks I know won’t bother to write properly or even in a mix of capital and lower case letters and still have work. Writing is a useless skill.

          I have been talking to a former colleague of mine who’s working as a newspaper editor again. At two newspapers now, still making $200 less than she did the last time she was working full time at the first job. Still beats freelancing, she said.

                1. Hank

                  Employers often fail to see the value of writing, liberal arts, books, etc. because it doesn’t serve an immediate practical purpose. Any dummy can write a work email because written communication in the typical workplace doesn’t have to be sophisticated to serve its function. Businesses no longer tie value to anything outside of the workplace. For example, a well-read person is more likely to vote, be informed about the world, and so on – but so what? As the Oscar Wilde quote goes: “A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Corporate ethics have been gutted by this attitude since the 1980s.

      4. Jen

        I think its a case of encountering the worst writers that stick in your head, that outnumbers the rare excellent writer you come across. I know that for me it’s the poor writers that come to mind first.

      5. C Average

        THIS makes me crazy.

        I live in a part of the country where you can’t walk into a coffee shop and throw a rock without hitting a liberal arts grad with very solid writing skills.

        And yet I see horrible written output from various local companies. I think, “Why don’t you hire someone to make you look good in print? Even one competent writer could exponentially improve your online presence, brochures, marketing materials, etc.”

        1. Anonia

          I have lived in an area where writing tutors, journalism majors, English minors, etc. were out of work or underemployed, but the businesses that did exist would routinely invest in expensive ads that with glaring grammar errors.

          And some of these small businesses may not have it in the budget. But these same graduates had years of customer service experience, too, and very well could have done more for a company that writing work.

        2. Sans

          I’m a writer. That’s what I do. I writer ads, brochures, web copy, white papers, etc. And what’s been happening the last 20 years or so is that everyone thinks they are a writer and so they don’t really need to hire one. They look at the creative department and realize they can’t do what the graphic artist does. But everyone can write, can’t they??? (Kill me now.) And so the writers get laid off. And there’s no one left to even judge whether the writing is competent.

          Right now, I’m helping another dept. in my company re-write some of their standard material. Supposedly, this stuff has been reviewed and approved. Yet it is confusing, contradictory and badly written. It’s been used for years, and it’s bad.

          So when you see horrible output, believe me, there’s no one at that company that realizes it. They probably think it’s great.

          1. K.

            Yep. People think, well, I write email every day, so I must be a writer. I cannot tell you how much time I spend correcting basic grammar and overall sloppiness at work – this is in presentations, case studies, collateral … stuff that goes out into the world and represents our business. I had one guy, a director, tell me he was a great writer and he showed me his stuff, and it was rambling word vomit – it read like a 12-year-old’s blog. He was planning to submit this for publication. Ugh.

        3. Elizabeth West

          I see a very annoying trait in employers (now and when I was interviewing) where they don’t want anyone to improve their material. It shows up more with smaller companies, but I’ve run into several who have atrocious websites, brochures, etc. written by the owner or manager, who can’t take any feedback whatsoever.

          I had one interview with a company whose website copy was hideous. The interviewer told me that the boss wrote the copy and wouldn’t let anyone change it, not even the marketing people, who had tried many times to convince him to let them edit. I decided that if they offered me the job, I would say no. In fact, I very nearly skipped applying altogether because it was so bad.

      6. Bwmn

        I think that this actually supports the lack of businesses providing training. If Chocolate Teapot Co. needs an entry level communications, PR, copywriting, etc. employee – how many recent grad candidates in fields like English, Rhetoric, or even Creative Writing would have a chance? Rather it seems as though a Communications or Marketing style degree (plus relevant internships) seem to have far more weight (not to mention someone already having that job) rather than having solid writing skills about being able to be taught about how things run at the Chocolate Teapot Co..

        I have a masters degree in Nonprofit Management – and despite students asking for a class on grant writing, the administration always refused by saying that it didn’t fit within the university’s research oriented philosophy (i.e. there’s not a lot of research or theories written on grant writing). Therefore the fundraising class we did have was as much on the theories of fundraising as on any practical usages. As a student who wanted to get hired afterwards, it was frustrated – but now having time in the field, I totally get it. Grant writing is a professional skill, and not a university course. Since then I’ve taken classes by various institutions (basically named “how to write a grant specifically for us”) – but grant writing/fundraising – there’s only so much training a degree course will ever really give you.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

          Exactly. I have excellent writing skills—at least, they were excellent when I wrote my essays about how the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter functions as an Idealogical State Apparatus (a la Louis Althusser) in my MA English classes. I’m also quite good at writing instructions and the day-to-day business writing that gets thrown my way, and I’m good at editing other people’s writing to be more clear and concise. My grammar and usage are usually correct.

          Once, though, I tried my hand at copywriting for SEO. I SUCKED. I mean, horribly, awfully, sucked. I just wasn’t trained for that kind of writing (6-8% repetition of keywords in a 500-word passage, ugh). It was inherently antithetical to my preferred writing style, which is clear and concise. (I never learned to BS, unlike most of my fellow English majors. My essays and even my thesis usually barely met minimum requirements). Similarly, if someone asked me to write a grant proposal, I’d be horrible at that too (although I’ve helped edit a few). I wrote bad poetry in high school and even worse fan fiction in college. “Good writer” is rarely universal. There are certain foundational skills that must be present in every good writer– subject/verb agreement, correct use of semicolons, etc.– but one kind of writing is not like the next. Could I become a good grant writer? Probably, if I got the right training. Am I now? Good grief, no.

          1. Sans

            That’s an interesting point. I’m best at copywriting, because that’s what I do the most. But I’ve also done newsletter articles, press releases, and way back when, some grant writing. I can do all of that. But one of the most common questions a copywriter gets is “Do you want to write a book someday?” And my answer is an emphatic NO. I can’t write long-form pieces. I can’t write dialogue. I have creativity when it comes to featuring a product benefit with a snappy headline but for the life of me, I can’t think of a narrative interesting enough to become a book. I’ve also never done tv or radio ads and I’m really not confident that I’d be that good at it.

            You can be a great writer in certain situations, but definitely not so great in others.

            1. Elizabeth West

              Your last point is very true. I worked for a year on a website writing the keyword kind of content, and while I did okay, it definitely wasn’t my favorite kind of writing. I couldn’t think up a snappy headline or ad to save my life, and I suck at titles. Grant writing? Auuugghh nooooo.

              But I can blog. And writing a book? I’ve written four, and I’m working on number five. Seems like I’m only good at the kind of writing that doesn’t pay anything. And not that good either, I guess, since I can’t seem to break through, but every project is a learning experience.

            2. Mackenzie

              I used to make ends meet by writing articles for a couple Lifehacker-wannabe type blogs. I am perfectly comfortable writing articles or research papers. When someone asks me “can you toss a website up for this event for me?” though, my answer is always “send me what you want it to say.” I cannot come up with catchy copy. If they don’t tell me something snazzy to put there, the entire site is going to consist of the 5 lines inside a pre-printed birthday party invitation.

          2. Melissa

            That is an amazing essay topic, and I want to read it :D

            I agree, though, that tailored writing is a skill. I consider myself an excellent writer and I like to write, but I wrote for a blog for a time and I didn’t like the somewhat stilted language and the SEO repetition I had to employ. But much of my current job (research fellow) involves academic writing directed at scientists, and I do enjoy that kind of writing for the most part.

      7. MaryMary

        I think “strong writing skills” is also pretty subjective. Yes, there are college educated adults who haven’t mastered basic grammar and sentence structure, and that’s a problem. There are also people who look at stylistic differences and say, “s/he can’t write.” My boss has a very distinct writing style, and he’s a snob about it. I can mimic his style or produce a mix of his and mine, so to him, I’m a good writer. A coworker uses a more flowery, long winded style, so my boss thinks he’s a bad writer. Another coworker is very direct and brief, and my boss doesn’t like his style either. We don’t have a style guide, or a communications specialist, or an editor. We have a bunch of people who think their way is the best way to communicate.

      8. Kat M

        Writing academese and writing basic, solid, descriptive sentences are very different skills. That being said, the best cure is to read lots of simple, excellent prose. Ideally in your field. I find that those liberal arts folks tend to pretty well when provided with enough examples of what you’re looking for. But it takes some time.

        1. Bwmn

          But I think that lots of writing is that way. It’s about training the eye to emphasize what is/is not important. For a while I did a lot of grant writing from European countries – so while grants were in English, a lot of grant reviewers weren’t native English speakers. Doing hard core editing was definitely not the most important part, and rather high lighting key goals, activities, objectives, etc. with a sledge hammer was. I’m not back to working on more US based grants, and while it’s not radically different – grammar can’t be quite as lazy. But those are job to job based differences, not something a university should waste one second of time with.

    3. Sadsack

      Getting people to stick around is sort of based on how well you treat them and how well you pay them.

  3. Sherm

    “Oh, and he also notes that 30% of U.S. employers acknowledge that job seekers were looking for more pay than they were willing to offer. Which might have something to do with an employer’s inability to find the right people.”

    Bingo.

    I’m in STEM, and it makes my blood boil when I hear CEOs or politicians saying “We have a STEM shortage!” (Blogs written by STEM workers in the trenches will explain how much they agree.) What they are pretty much really saying is “We’re having trouble finding workers who are willing to work real cheap!”

    1. Noelle

      I’m in public policy and it’s the same thing. “Why can’t we find an awesome, super smart person to do quality research and other issues as needed who’s willing to work 60+ hours per week for less than $30K? There must be a skills shortage!”

      1. Rana

        And yet if you have a higher degree, and are willing to work for a lower salary, then they wonder what’s wrong with you, and whether you’ll quit, so don’t even take the chance. It’s irrational.

        1. Sascha

          Yes! My boss listed a master’s degree on the entry level support position on my team, but when candidates with master’s degrees apply, he doesn’t want to interview them because he thinks they aren’t serious about the job and will leave for something better. But if you don’t have a master’s when you apply, he thinks you’re underqualified.

          1. Adam

            I’m afraid to ask, but has anyone pointed out to him what a roundabout in the logic turnpike that is?

              1. Sascha

                He wants to hire clones of myself. I was one of those magical unicorns that basically made a lateral move to this university from a different one – same job, nearly the same title, same department, same work. I left my last job because of a horrible work environment. All those entry level positions that want 1-3 years of extremely specific experience? That’s what I had, and willing to work for peanuts to boot!

                Adam – I’ve pointed it out to him many, many times, along with his other examples of circular reasoning. One of the reasons I’m looking for something new!

                1. I'm a Little Teapot

                  I think you just nailed it. Clones of yourself. I’ve had two horrible bosses who refused to train me and fired me within weeks when I couldn’t read their minds about which drawer they kept last year’s client files in or how exactly their obscure outdated DOS business database software with no manual worked. In both cases they were the owners of very small businesses who’d had the same assistant for years and were angry that she’d quit and I wasn’t her and didn’t have all her knowledge instantly uploaded into my brain.

                  I feel sorry for your successor.

                1. Kelly L.

                  If they keep it open for a decade or so, maybe Odysseus will come home from the war, and they can hire him.

          2. Not Here or There

            As an EA, I see so many ads looking for EA’s with a “preferable masters”, and then they want to pay $30-40k. I do not understand. I really don’t.

            I have about 8 years experience, and have worked for C-level professionals at companies both very large and very small, diplomats, and global non-profits. I do not have a masters and, excepting very special circumstances, I cannot imagine any EA being asked to do something that would require them to have completed graduate school. I’ve written and edited grant proposals, ghost written newspaper articles and technical papers for engineering journals, handled complex international travel, planned conferences and symposiums for 50-250 people, and even organized security detail for a foreign head of state. Now, tell me again why I’m not qualified to be an EA because I don’t have a degree (and why my skills are barely worth $15/ hour). Sorry for the rant, but this is really a major pet peeve.

            1. Sascha

              I hear you. I actually do not have a master’s myself, but for some reason my manager changed the job description after I started to require it. It’s totally not necessary. I feel a little insulted every time he says someone without one is “underqualified.” However this is pretty typical for higher education – they want to see lots of degrees for no practical reason.

              1. Not Here or There

                My personal feeling is the job probably doesn’t require a degree unless you require a specific degree and even then it’s iffy. EA jobs almost never require a specific degree, they just say degree required. They wouldn’t care if I had a PhD in underwater basket weaving so long as it checks whatever imaginary box they have in their head.

              2. Adam

                “they want to see lots of degrees for no practical reason.”

                I think it justifying their existence is the primary one.

            2. Noelle

              Yeah, I get very frustrated when I’m looking for jobs that want an advanced degree and 5+ years of experience……….AAAANND someone willing to take an entry level salary. Yeah, not gonna happen. Know what else people with advanced degrees have? LOANS.

      2. Three Thousand

        Exactly. Why won’t anyone sell me a brand new luxury car for $1000? There must be a vehicle shortage in this country.

        Things cost what they cost, and you will pay for them or not have them.

        1. neverjaunty

          Exactly. It’s amazing how all these business people suddenly pretend they don’t understand basic economics when it comes to hiring. Hey, maybe if you can’t find people to work for you, offer more money? Because that is how the labor market works?

          (Although of course they understand this very well, and that “skills shortages” is a lie. Look at the recent class action settlement over Silicon Valley companies conspiring not to hire from each other in order to keep salaries down.)

          1. Mike C.

            “Guys, guys! We can’t find anyone willing to go to the middle of nowhere, move from farm to farm working in the hot sun for 14 hours a day for piecemeal wages. People must be lazy and entitled!”

            1. Mackenzie

              The tech equivalent of this:

              We can’t find anyone willing to do a 3-month contract job in Wyoming for which we absolutely won’t provide relocation assistance. Why won’t anyone quit their FT-with-benefits job in a high-salary region to move to the middle of nowhere for a dead-end contract?

      3. Lynn Whitehat

        All those people complaining about the “STEM shortage”? I guarantee, if I told them I was trying to buy a leather couch for $50 and couldn’t find one, so there’s a “leather couch shortage”, every single one of them would give me a condescending lecture about Supply and Demand 101. The market has spoken! But when they want to pay $30K for an experienced researcher and can’t find one, they never think that Adam Smith’s invisible hand is indicating they need to offer more money. No, they want the game changed.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

          1000 A+++++

          We hear the same thing – “baseball tickets are too expensive”, yet, the ballparks are filled.

        2. Jenna

          +10000

          Supply and demand only apply when they want them to.
          Pay people enough to afford the loans used to get that degree that you want them to have.
          One way or another, training isn’t free. Someone pays for it.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot

            “Supply and demand only apply when they want them to.”

            Pretty much sums up this entire post.

    2. Meg P

      Agreed. I worked several years at a large company with a constant need for development staff, but we couldn’t hire junior developers or interns, because our senior developers were never given any spare time from their other responsibilities to mentor and/or train (much less to get training themselves). It was very frustrating and short-sighted.

      1. Noelle

        My office has this terrible structure where half of them have been there for 20+ years and are going to be there until they retire. They’ve also gotten enough money to make that feasible. But our entry level staff are pretty much awful because they are so massively underpaid that anyone who can leave, does. And yeah, we’re not giving them any training, because why would we do that? Uggh, government sucks.

        1. The Strand

          Norm Matloff is another name to google, who has been doing research on the “bogus” shortage for some years now.

    3. Ed

      “What they are pretty much really saying is “We’re having trouble finding workers who are willing to work real cheap!””

      What really bugs me about this is the massive amount of data that shows execs are making more than ever and their pay just keeps increasing.

      1. esra

        YEP. There have been studies about how the massively wealthy end up with a serious deficiency of empathy. I’m not sure the argument to pay people more and maybe you take home 105 million instead of 150 will ever go over well.

    4. Jen

      This a 1000x. I found it highly ironic that a geology organization sent out a report last year I think, that essentially showed what a poor job market it was for geologists. This was followed up a month later by a report (aimed at promoting students to attain a geology degree) about the “shortage” of geologists, and “great starting salary”. ::facepalm::

      1. Melissa

        Yeah, these kinds of tandem articles have been coming out in academia (mostly STEM) for quite some time. One month we’ll get an article about the shortage of qualified STEM scientists. The next month we’ll get an article about how difficult it is for STEM PhDs to find work after graduate school, and how depressed salaries are when they do get a job.

    5. Anonsie

      I am so so so tired of people lumping all these fields into “STEM,” too. You wanna get a BS in computer science? Sure, you can make money there if you go into the right type of work. You wanna get a BS biology? Good luck with that, chump. Hope you like lab tech burnout.

      It feels to me a lot like people who are either a) not in the sciences at all, or are in specific groups of engineering or b) in a comfortable niche in a different field that they’ve been settled into for decades are just repeatedly wondering “Why won’t anyone go to grad school for ten years to make $40k of soft money that evaporates every two years? Maybe we just need more people in the field! Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

      But boy did I ever enjoy the looks on people’s faces when I was unemployed shortly after my first post-college project funding ended and people smarmily asked what my degree was in and I told them I’d majored in chemistry. I saw a lot of assumptions crumble behind a lot of judgey little eyes >_> Oh were you gonna get on your liberal-arts-degrees-are-useless high horse? Better untack Nelly there, chump.

      1. Mike C.

        Seriously, I was a mathematical-biology major in college. I had to move into aerospace to get a solid job. There were so many interviews where the employer was like, “what would I ever need a math person for!?”. And little did I know that most labs are run like sweatshops barely evading the attention of the FDA/USDA/privately funded certification groups.

        Then major pharma groups start shutting the doors of their R&D labs. Way to go, I’m sure that’ll help the stock price in 10 years…

        1. Anonsie

          Oh man, and it’s not just big pharma and biotech. Any lab of any kind, research or clinical, public or private or government sector, is on a sandy foundation and has been for a long time.

        2. Is it Performance Art

          I left basic biology research several years ago and people still ask me why I left such a great field with such high salaries. I explain that I was fed up with making less than $35,000, being expected to work at least 60 hours a week and putting up with bosses who threw temper tantrums. Most people are shocked because they’ve heard about the STEM shortage and that we’d be much further along in curing cancer if only we had more biologists.
          A lot of people don’t understand that the demand for people in individual STEM fields is cyclical. I don’t doubt there’s a shortage of petroleum engineers, but 20-30 years ago, they couldn’t find jobs.

          1. Anonsie

            we’d be much further along in curing cancer if only we had more biologists.

            I’m sorry, pardon me for a moment while I go over here and let the brain leak out of my ears for a minute.

          2. GlorifiedPlumber

            No shortage of petroleum engineers anymore. Oil field services and drilling companies laying off like fiends.

            Wholeheartedly agree on the STEM thing, demand highly cyclical and uniformed people lump them all together.

            When I hear people suggest biology or chemistry or basically something that isn’t the big 4 engineering or computer science as a “path to riches” I cringe.

            I am a biochemist turned chemical engineer. Best additional two years of schooling I ever did.

        3. yeti

          Labs run like sweatshops. Oh god. This is so, so true. I’m not sure how we’re avoiding the attention of [our national equivalent of the FDA] but it can’t last forever.

      2. Rye-Ann

        Seriously. STEM is a ridiculous category – at the very least, the “TE” and “S/M” portions are VERY different from each other.

        1. BeenThere

          Yes salary was one of the reasons I chose to do engineering and computer science. Rather than Chemistry, Physics and Pure Maths.

      3. Clever Name

        Heh. I have a BS in biology. Original plan was to go into academia, but I realized I didn’t want do do that, so I had a BS and was looking for jobs. Only postings I saw were for lab techs and pharma sales reps. Nope and nope. Ended up with a masters in a related field and now work in consulting.

      4. Nashira

        Or if you want to use that biology BS for zookeeping, getting paid barely more than a degreeless office clerk to scoop exotic animal poop. It’s kinda obscene, in my opinion, as the clerk watching her zookeeper SIL struggle to find a fulltime position.

        1. Anonsie

          With a BS? My understanding is you need at least an MS and usually a PhD to be a zookeeper raking in a good $35k a year telling people to stop throwing trash into the exhibits. If you are lucky enough to get into a zoo! I loved zoology so people always asked why I didn’t go into that, I usually told them I didn’t feel like getting a doctorate so I could give dolphin facts at SeaWorld.

          Oh oh true story: once I was at the zoo watching the Francois’ leaf monkeys and a keeper came over to the fence next to me with a little hand saw. She started sawing this little sapling that had grown into the fence a little and was starting to grow over a spigot. But the saw wasn’t really sharp, so she was like leaning her whole body into it and trying to jam it into the wood. After a minute she looked up at me and said “this isn’t what I imagined I’d be doing every day when I went to grad school.”

        2. Windchime

          I know someone who has a BS in zoology; she works as an animal control officer. They won’t even talk to her at the zoo, and then you’re right–she’d be scooping tiger poop, I’m sure.

          1. Windchime

            (For those who aren’t in the US, “animal control officer” basically means she works at the animal shelter. She goes out on calls to pick up stray or injured animals, writes people tickets for not leashing their dogs, etc. It’s an important job and she loves it; it’s just not what she thought she would be doing with her degree that cost her many tens of thousands of dollars.)

      5. Melissa

        Yesssss. I try explaining this to my high schoolers all the time, trying to tell them that majoring in computer science is different from majoring in biology or chemistry, and that’s different from majoring in engineering or information technology or something. And I’m irritated whenever I see these reports about “academic jobs in STEM” come out (that I referenced above in a comment). The numbers for engineering professors are great; biology and chemistry PhDs are in a boat closer to the boat that political science PhDs are in.

    6. Anx

      STEM grad ’08 here. It infuriates me, too.

      The sad thing is that I’d be happy to work for minimum wage if it meant regular, full-time work with a few benefits. But that’s not cheap enough, I suppose.

      1. Jen

        Nope. All we hear around here is ‘we can always hire more students, they’re cheap’ or ‘oh Jeff who’s been here 15+ years is leaving, well guess we should put a job posting out, let’s see if we can make do with a post-whateverdegree since they’ll be cheaper than hiring for a regular position or promoting someone else up’. Great for morale.

        1. Anx

          It’d be nice if they hired recent grads or those with minimum experience and then worked to retain them.

          If only!

  4. AVP

    To me this also goes along with the idea that people want 1-3 years of experience for “entry level” jobs. Read: they want someone they can pay at entry level, but who knows the job well enough to seamlessly start producing at it on their first week.

    1. HM in Atlanta

      I can’t tell you how many times I have to tell managers – we’re hiring someone and the only qualifications they have to have are (a) bachelor’s degree in a science, engineering, or IT field and (b) have worked somewhere, anywhere, in their life (just some kind of work history – including internships and work study).

      They keep asking for specific experience and I push back and say no a lot.

      1. College Career Counselor

        Yup, the manager is looking for the so-called purple squirrel (Capelli has talked about that phenomenon in other articles) ideal/unique applicant who has years of experience, a zillion special certifications, the exact right qualities, etc. And it’s at least in part due to how specific the applicant management software is. Manager thinks s/he’s dialing up the perfect candidate by being ultra-specific when it’s possible that the laundry list of qualifications is excluding many (if not all) talented applicants.

        TL;DR: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good when it comes to sourcing candidates.

        1. Hillary

          I was that candidate recently. I could check every box, and I’m pretty sure there are maybe five people in my area that can do the same. I haven’t heard any of them want to make a move.

          The hr person sounded about as happy to tell me they were extending the search as I was to hear it. The role is still open two months later.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

            Sometimes the role is left open to save money – if they don’t need someone RIGHT NOW they can delay, drag feet — although I’ve sometimes seen the logjam break (or not break) if I’ve received an offer from someone else – – then call back company “A” if it was my first choice and say “I’d like to come aboard with you, if I’m still on your candidate list, but I have another offer in hand I’m going to take if that door is closed.”

            Sometimes they’ll react – and get it done. But you have to be real – not bluff.

            Also – I’ve seen ads that have requirements that are impossible for anyone to achieve – like “5 years experience in Windows 8.1”, to give a 2015 comparison.

        2. Melissa

          This is what I found when I tried to Google Capelli’s article about the purple squirrel. LOL.

          (I did find the article, too…lower on the page.)

          1. Windchime

            Aha! So the purple squirrel *does* exist, and we can find one, too, if we just keep looking! (Said many employers, apparently after having read the article.)

      2. GlorifiedPlumber

        We call the hunt for specific experience a “unicorn safari.”

        HR specializes in them.

    2. Sharon

      True, and this is a huge problem in software development where you can’t just have software development experience, but you need 3 years of experience with a variety of specific tools. The end result of this is that mid-level people are getting “entry level” positions and there is no real entry point into the career.

      Even now that I’m out of software, as a business analyst I have a problem getting any training. I got a job with a company in a new business domain. I want training in that domain, and there are lots of great classes available. Just not at Learning Tree. All my company seems willing to pay for is classes in Excel or Word (I’m pretty much a MS Office pro and when I need to learn new things, I am able to do it with web searches and playing with a test file.) I’m a bit disgusted after being talked down from “hey, we have some training money, what do you want to learn this year?” to a $50 book from Amazon (which coincidentally my mom bought me for Xmas!)

      1. Anon for this again

        Yep. I love it when they want you to learn it, want you to pay for it, and want you to do it on your own time too.

        We got a great concession this past year of two days to spend on training – any training we could pick, as long as it didn’t cost the company money (source it free or pay for it yourself). Mandatory that we use the time, mandatory that our manager let us do so.

        There was never time for it, and no one ever spoke of it (or the failure to use the ‘mandatory’ time, for most employees) again.

      2. I'm a Little Teapot

        There are a number of fields where the advancement ladder is missing rungs, usually ones near the bottom.

      3. Wee

        “The end result of this is that mid-level people are getting “entry level” positions and there is no real entry point into the career.”

        This is rampant. My BS (no irony there…) is in accounting – supposedly one of the best majors, right? You have no idea how many staff accountant/accounting ASSISTANT/CLERK/accounts receivable/payable positions I applied or interviewed for and just didn’t have the experience they desired, or priced myself out of when I asked for a salary in the mid 30s. (You want me to be an expert in Quickbooks and have 2-3 years of relevant experience for $14/hr…REALLY?) I had good grades and an internship under my belt too, in addition to a lot of general work experience.

        Finally took a job in purchasing, where it appears I’ll be for a long while. It’s like we’re pigeonholed into one role forever.

      4. Mackenzie

        I finished my BS CS in 2010. I worked in systems engineering and software engineering jobs while in college.

        I’m still not actually sure whether I’m mid-level at this point, because job listings for programmers are just so weird. If it’s a Python programming job, then maybe I’m mid-level (been doing Python since 2007), but if it’s Ruby I’m entry level (only a year experience there)? And I’ve done Javascript since 1999, so I don’t know what that makes me. But it’s all just programming! Once you know how to think, everything else is syntax sugar.

        It seems like if I wanted to get a job writing Ruby, I’d need to go down to a junior role and thus take a pay cut. I’ve been saying for a while now, but I feel like the longer I stay in my current programming job the less qualified I become for other programming jobs. I feel less qualified for the job listings I see than I did in 2011 when I got hired.

      1. Rana

        And it’s especially horrid if you’re trying to career switch. (Which, as some of you know, is why I ended up freelancing – there, I can handle my own training.)

    3. Mike C.

      And lets be honest here, how many times is that “1-3 yrs experience” little more than basic knowledge of the industry plus working familiarity with Microsoft Office?

    4. Rachel

      THIS! It seems like the definition of “entry-level” these days is “Entry-level for OUR COMPANY, but must have 2-3 years experience doing the exact same job, with all the same responsibilities and using all the same technologies, at another company.”

  5. Jubilance

    Every time I hear something about a “skills shortage” I want to scream. It all goes back to employers who feel entitled to the very best workers and pay them next to nothing, give them zero job security, no benefits, nothing. When are more employers going to realize that treating your employees like dirt is increasing your turnover and expenses? Put more into your compensation packages, give employees training & see how much better your retention rate gets.

    1. Mike C.

      Yeah, this constant short term shareholder value view of business is really a bad way to go. You aren’t going to be successful in the long term if you aren’t willing to invest in your business.

    2. Jennifer

      I don’t think anyone cares about retention. They’ll just hire a 22-year-old for cheaper, right? Then hire another and another.

  6. M-C

    Some of it also has to do with the -kind- of person the employer expects to have these skills. If you aren’t young, white, and able to grow a goatee, your IT skills may not be recognized. Also, while the rest of the company may be OK, HR is often the most prejudiced part of it.

    1. OhNo

      This, definitely. What employers are really saying isn’t “there’s a skill shortage!”, what they’re saying is, “the specific type of people I am willing to consider hiring either won’t work for what I’m willing to pay, or doesn’t have the skills I need already programmed into their brains”.

    2. JoJo

      There’s also a definite prejudice against introverts. HR types want bubbly, people persons for all jobs, even those that involve sitting alone in a cubicle and staring into a computer screen all day.

      1. anonintheuk

        Where I work, the quality of one department’s entry-level and slightly higher staff has changed for the worse since a particular person started doing the hiring. He is amiable, ‘bouncy’, and in my experience (we are the same level, in different areas) not all that technically able. So are most of his hires.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian

        In my experience, all the really good IT techs I’ve worked with have been just a little bit surly, so I’d probably err on the side of hiring for a dash of surliness under pressure if I were a bad HR rep.

        1. nyxalinth

          I have a friend online whom, I can tell you, fits this very well. He’s a curmudgeon, but he’s awesome at what he does.

  7. Ann O'Nemity

    I’m a millennial and I don’t have any expectations that employers will offer training. My experience is that employers expect new employees to be able to do the job on day 1, and also expect their workers to take responsibility to stay current and grow in their skill sets – on their own time and on their own dime. This is the only reality I’ve ever known, and it’s what I’ve heard from teachers, professors, and managers for at least 2 decades.

    1. Ed

      I personally use this to my advantage. My co-workers won’t lift a finger to learn anything unless they are sent to a $4K class for two weeks. I buy a book and download a trial version of the program to install at home and teach myself. Guess who my manager thinks is more valuable?

      1. DMC

        I applaud you for this! Yes! Yes! and Yes! While most of the employers I’ve worked with do invest in training, I have to say, the whole training thing is more along the lines of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make her drink.” Just sitting through training won’t help someone who isn’t genuinely motivated to learn and improve. I think employers who are gun shy on training are wary that they are going to spend money on training that won’t get them any real benefits. People can sit through a thousand dollar training program, come out retaining maybe 25% of it, and then after five months have forgotten ALL of it. People like you who take some initiative and are capable of learning on your own with the tools at your disposal, in my opinion, benefit the most from employer-sponsored training because you’ll do something with it.

      2. esra

        That’s good you keep your skills sharp, but it’s not really an excuse for employers to not engage in training. There’s only so much you can do on your own with a book and trial version.

        1. Clever Name

          I wouldn’t be so sure. My husband has taught himself at least 3 programming languages this way.

          1. esra

            You can learn that way, I’m not denying it. But you can still miss out on a lot without training. I’m self-taught on a few coding languages, but there is also a lot I could learn. There is a lot to be said for having someone who really knows their stuff teaching you how to do something.

            And honestly, it’s very hard to evaluate your own skills when you are self-taught. I’m not dissing your husband’s skills, but I think it would be disingenuous to say he couldn’t learn anything or go to a higher level of skill with proper training.

            1. Snork Maiden

              Agree. I’m self taught, 8 years in the field, and I recently did (employer-paid, huzzah) training, taught by two people with a collective 45 year experience. Wow! I was OK before, but now I know all the stuff I didn’t know before, and it was not inconsiderable. I’m faster, I make less mistakes, and I understand how the pieces fit into the whole, as well as long-term ramifications. Not to mention other interconnected fields that I wouldn’t have thought about before.

          2. Beyonce Pad Thai

            It’s totally possible – when your situation allows it, i.e. you have sufficient free time & possibly money to invest in learning. If employers give provide training and advance the people who train themselves on their own time, that will result in people (single parents, people working multiple jobs, etc) who don’t have the time/money to train themselves being disadvantaged. Which sucks if you’re in that situation.

  8. AnotherAlison

    The only thing I’ll say is that it seems in my field, OTJ training is the only way to go. It’s fine to go to a software training, if you are going to regularly use it as soon as you return, and it’s nice that we have lunch and learns on certain technical topics. But, the only way I’ve ever really learned anything is by doing, and it is really a large investment to train people that way. For example, you might have generic training on “how to size a pump.” Great. All the new engineers can go to that. But, then you get them back on the project to do real work and they know how to size the pump, but they don’t know where to get the information that goes into sizing the pump or where to go in the spec to see that we needed 3×50% capacity pumps, not 2×100% pumps. You have to sit with them one-on-one to learn that, and then you have to do all the other work YOU have to do because it doesn’t just go away.

    It is a training investment that my company makes, having peer mentors work with new hires one-on-one, but I can see why companies try to avoid it as much as possible.

    1. GlorifiedPlumber

      I love your posts by the way because you’re so clearly a process engineer.

      I agree, engineering in particular lends itself to OTJ more than anything I’ve experienced. Especially when you can pair a senior and junior person. OTJ is doable for companies with decent margins, a good number of senior engineers, and an expectation of work over 40 hours unpaid.

      We aren’t so lucky… our projects are all 8 weeks long with the expectation of completion in 6.5… and we have an army of junior folk and limited senior folk. I get so much pushback on using projects as learning grounds for junior engineers or mid level people in need of specific experience just because they can’t handle the schedule or the client will get a whiff that Einstein isn’t personally on their project and freak out, or my manager needs “senior engineer” for “other emergency.”

      I’d love to slow things down slightly, and coordinate OTJ training better amongst my engineers and designers… but no dice.

      I think you’re example is perfect, you can teach someone to size a pump (300 gpm, xyz head) etc with a class, but it’s near impossible to do decent process engineering training (2×100%, 3×50%) in any other fashion than OTJ.

  9. Amber Rose

    A friend of mine keeps bugging me to work for him. He says it doesn’t matter if I don’t have the hard skills like how to use the software and process transactions or even sales, because he can teach those. He’s looking for soft skills that can’t be taught.

    I wish more were like him. I’m just not willing to move back to his small town for the job.

    1. A Non

      I’ve found lots of employers who say “we can train hard skills!”… and then don’t. They just get mad at you for not having the abilities that you told them you didn’t have when you started.

      1. Dan

        I had an interview like that.

        Him: “You don’t have X on your resume.”
        Me: “I don’t possess skill X, so I would be lying if I put it on my resume.”
        Him: “Skill X is really important here. That’s all we do.”
        Me: “I can learn skill X, I know of it, just don’t have any direct work experience.”
        Him: “We brief the CEO and CFO all of time, all they talk about is X.”
        Me: “So WTF is your point? If it’s so damned important, why didn’t HM Y & Z ask me about it on the phone, and why am I sitting here?”

        That was at the beginning of the interview with this person, it went down hill from there. I don’t know if I got the job or not, I accepted a different position a week later and politely thanked them for their time.

        1. Amber Rose

          I had a similar experience once except I also got “we can hire you part time as lower level position for half the pay since you don’t have X.”

          I was livid. I can’t believe I didn’t shove his clipboard up his nose.

        2. nyxalinth

          OMG this. I interviewed at a place almost two years ago for customer service. Nothing in the damn ad said a thing about wanting construction experience. But all the guy hiring me could bang on about was construction experience. That, and he fussed on about my having done writing for the last few years. Seriously, dude, if that was such a huge deal, then why did you have me interview?

      2. A

        That’s totally my current job. I like it here despite these issues, and I’m teaching myself a lot, but they really dropped the ball on “training” me. I feel like I’m constantly getting in trouble for “forgetting” things… things that I’ve never been taught.

        1. esra

          I just started a job and had a couple days of overlap with the woman leaving. I constantly get “Didn’t Jane show you X?” when asking questions that have quick, simple answers, but that you wouldn’t know unless you’ve been there a while.

          Like Jane and I went over a lot, but we can’t go over ten years of work in two days!

          1. Jennifer

            Hah, one time I got trained by a departing woman for a DAY and then she decided she wasn’t coming back since I was already there.

  10. Amy

    You have to pay either for the training you do or that someone else has done. Employers can’t have it both ways.

  11. Adam

    I’m not sure what to believe anymore as I hear a different scapegoat everywhere I turn. It’s the colleges’ fault for not teaching useful skills while charging astronomical tuition. It’s the millennials’ fault for feeling entitled to big bucks for sorting a piece of paper. It’s the aging workforce who aren’t retiring and are holding onto their jobs longer than they should. It’s the budget’s fault we can’t pay respectable wages or higher more people. It’s the CEO’s fault when they say “work harder” to the poor schlub who is working two jobs and completely burned out. It’s the governments’ fault because…because it’s always their fault. That’s a lot of pointing fingers!

    I entered the modern workforce around 2006 and in my experience the job market has never not been a metaphorical nightmare to the point where I picture myself paying a man in a dark suit and a heavy accent for the chance to get a decent job. Is this a sign of the times or has it always felt like this? I hear so much in articles that hiring managers want people with solid work ethic and good communication skills above all else. But emphasizing that in my cover letters doesn’t seem to get much response, and I’m trying harder and harder to “Show and not tell”.

    And my current employer offers “training”, but mostly it’s been how to use excel at most at an intermediate level and how to use our company’s database program…which doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to about 1/4 the time anyways…

    1. AVP

      I think part of the “entitlement” question is that, at least in many cities, hard costs like rent and utilities have risen much faster than wages, which have been stagnant for awhile now. So yeah, you now need to earn “big bucks” to sort paper if you want to do it while living within 50 miles of the major cities where many companies are located. Which is a very different experience than the stories I hear from people who entered the workforce in the 70’s and 80’s (incidentally,t he people who’s et my salary now who think we should all live in a lift downtown for less than $100/month. They also walked uphill both ways to work every morning.)

      such a mess! scapegoats everywhere :)

      1. Adam

        No argument here. My rent alone has gone up around 14% in two years. I’m 30 and now considering looking for (*gulp*) roommates, which I’m pretty sure your average 30 year old only does so out of necessity.

      2. Ezri

        Not an hour ago I had to listen to a rant from a 60s coworker (I’m 22) about ‘kids these days growing up with so much’. He said, “when I started working you got paid 30,000 and were happy with it, now you kids start with $90,000! It’s outrageous”. I pointed out that a) basically no graduate gets 90 grand out of the gate and b) inflation makes 30,000 40 years ago very different from 30,000 now.

        Some people like to point fingers instead of admitting that each generation faces it’s own struggles. They had problems, we have problems – not the same problems, but real and valid.

        1. Adam

          It would take every ounce of willpower I have not to fire back: “Sure Jim. And how much did you pay for your first house?”

            1. College Career Counselor

              Student loans? Jim paid his way through college every year with the money he earned from his SUMMER JOB (which is now an unpaid internship).

          1. Not So NewReader

            EXCELLENT point! My dad was making 17K per year and he was paying in a 15k house. In other words, the house cost around 1 year’s pay. Try finding that now.

          2. Windchime

            I can answer that. My parents paid around $19k for an old farmhouse on 40-some acres (8 of it planted in apple orchard), a barn and an almost-new Ford tractor. So yeah, things were a lot different then.

        2. Another Ellie

          Amunition for next time: median household income in 1975 was a little over $10,000, and adjusted for inflation was worth around 45k. 30k in 1975 was equal to over 120k in today’s dollars. So, he’s remembering things just a little wrong.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Similarly- in the late 70s to early 80s the average income was 17k per year. At that time, my father was making 25k a year and that was considered doing well. I was working part time and going to school full time. Working a 30 hour week on average, I made around 6K per year. I remember looking at apartments for 300-400 per month and thinking- “do not even attempt this”.

            1. Sans

              That’s interesting, because my first job out of college was customer service in 1983 – entry level, on the phones, listening to people complain about their insurance. I made $11,000 a year and it was considered pretty damn low. A few years later I finally broke into advertising and was making $19,000 and I was still the definite low man on the totem pole. So I’m surprised that $17,000 was the average income.

              All I know is that I got my first apt when I was making $16,000 and I needed a roommate to help pay the rent and the only reason I had a car is that it was my dad’s old car he sold to me cheap.

              I also remember the only ones coming out of college in 1982 making $30,000 were engineers. That was considered an amazing starting salary.

              1. Another Ellie

                Between 1975 and 1980, median family income rose from just over 10k to just over 16k. Between 1980 and 1983, it rose to just over 19k, and by 1990 it was all the way to 28k, meaning that it rose by more than $1,000 every year of the 80s. Note that this is median *family* income, not median salary, so a direct salary comparison is a bit misleading (if you’d been married to somebody else also making 11k in 1983, you would have been above the median).

              2. Melissa

                Not surprising, though. The median individual income in the U.S. is $27,519 (2012 figures). But I would still say that’s on the low side; an individual making that much would probably need roommates in many (most?) places and wouldn’t be able to afford a new car or even any substantial payments on a used one. (The average wage was $42,498, because averages are skewed upwards by high outliers.)

        3. Mike C.

          Whenever this happens, google “Inflation Calculator” and have a blast. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve found that they made close to or more starting than I am now.

          If they’re still there, pull out a chart comparing median house hold income with GDP. Make sure it goes back 50 years or more. That’s also lots of fun.

          1. mirror

            I remember reading some infographic recently about “what life was like in the 60’s” compared to today. Along with some interesting tid bits, what BLEW MY MIND was that in the average family, Dad worked, Mom watched the 2 kids at home, and they owned a car and house. Average time to pay off the house was something like 2-5 years. ON JUST DAD’S SALARY. WITH 2 KIDS. College and student loans werent even mentioned.

            I mean, I’ve seen the movies and tv shows that represent these times. But it wasnt until I saw the infographic that it hit me hard– I was the same age as the 1960’s Mom used in the infographic. We’ve got the 1 car paid off part complete!

            1. esra

              RIGHT? No 15 years to pay off student debt before you can even think about saving for a home for them.

      3. Anonsie

        Oh yeah, god forbid you live in one of the big cities of migration now. I bailed out of my hometown entirely because wages have inched up maybe a dollar or two per hour since I was a kid, but rent has gone up exponentially.

        I remember doing a high school budgeting project where I was finding nice apartments near downtown for $400-500 a month. Four years later I had to move 30 miles out to the edge of the city for the luxury of a $1050/month apartment of the same size. Four years! And you better believe the federal minimum wage is still as standard now as it was before. If it hadn’t changed nationally, it wouldn’t have changed at all.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I know–I want to move so badly, but when people ask me where I want to go, I’m at a loss. The only places I can afford to go are places I wouldn’t want to live. The good places are out of my reach. Unless I become or marry a zillionaire. I’m about to lose my mind over it.

    2. Bwmn

      The theory that college is supposed to graduate a “work force ready” population is really strange to me. Fair enough there are definitely professional degrees (nursing, accounting) – but not all career paths are really suited for university structure. I’m someone with a Masters in Nonprofit Management – and speaking on behalf of my graduating class, I can say that everyone I went to school with got hired pretty quickly post graduation. So that’s always a plus, but I have a hard time necessarily saying that because of my degree I was instantly ready to take on the job I got post graduation. I was a full-time research assistant prior to grad school, so I was used to working with one large grant and being in a professional environment…but other than not being super spooked by some jargon I wouldn’t say that the degree made me ready for the job.

      Luckily where I first worked (rightly) assumed that the content of the organization was beyond the average understanding of anyone who hadn’t worked there , so they had a pretty heavy training program in place and assigned me a mentor who was wildly important. Later I heard that my mentor told my replacement (who was floundering and for some reason was not given mentor) that the reason I was so much more successful than her was because I had the degree. Total facepalm moment.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Colleges providing a work force ready person has evolved over the years, I think.
        No one singular force created that- but several pressures are working on it. College education costs have just zoomed out of control. My friend with a JD, refers to her time in college as “the time where one could work and pay their way as they went along”. Imagine, getting a JD and earning the cash to pay for it as you went through the program.

        A person gets out of college with massive debt and then has to start paying on the debt. They have difficulty getting a job that supports that debt and themselves. Like dominoes falling, this sets off a chain reaction all over the place.

        I firmly believe that we are quickly heading toward a time where a classical education will only be for the extremely rich. And shortly after that, the next change will be that a college education of any sort will be only for the very rich. Not many will have the luxury of getting an education for the sake of getting an education- which is what a NON-workforce ready education is. It’s education for the sake of education.

        Ironically, I have heard professors gripe about the 80 year old person in their class. “Oh that is a waste of college resources- why would you teach an 80 year old anything, they are just going to die, anyway!” Well, if you are offering education for the sake of education, the age of the student should be irrelevant to you. Because the end point is to have an education and nothing further. It does not matter if they use that education or not.

        People are looking at the ROI, on degrees from various schools. Mine has one of the lowest in the nation. But it’s an ivy league school or almost ivy league. Mercifully, my education is paid for. It’s a good thing, because I would not be able to pay on the loans right now. Why would I pay 100k for a degree that will get me a 30k per year job? That is just not a good investment and it’s not even logical.

        Employers failure to train their people only adds further pressure for colleges to offer relevant course work and relevant teaching.

        1. Bwmn

          I completely agree that in the US the system of early adulthood (be it college/working/interning/apprenticing/etc.) needs an overhaul. But I would just say that putting all the emphasis on the current university system is silly. If my Nonprofit Management degree is some proto-attempt at creating professional degrees – I can solidly say that as a replacement for actual nonprofit job skills, it’s hooey.

  12. H

    I totally agree with this article a lot of employers don’t want to take a chance on people who have recently graduated they want you to have skills. I do think though that some jobs are not being filled because of pay. As a recent grad myself I’m having a hard time finding work even if it’s for no pay!

  13. soitgoes

    I wonder how much this has to do with the prevalence of start-ups and small businesses. These people launch businesses in fields that they know, but they don’t have training themselves in areas of business that are necessary (financials, HR, record-keeping) but not directly related to the product or service being sold. They’re also not educators – they don’t even know how to teach other people what they (the bosses) know about the field in an effective way. They’re basically saying, “I have an idea and the start-up money. Now I need people to do everything else.”

    1. Kelly L.

      Now this, I’ve seen. In ’13 when I was hunting for an administrative assistant job, there was one Craigslist ad that made me scurry backward out of it like the Nopetopus. Their idea of “administrative assistant” was basically: “We have a brilliant idea for a store. We have no idea how to run a store. We’re going to hire an ‘administrative assistant’ who will write our business plan, do all the paperwork involved in starting up the store, do all the bookkeeping for the store, work in the store as a cashier, and get paid like a cashier.” Noooooooooope.

      1. nyxalinth

        Hehehe I know the gif you mean. I saw an ad like that last year on Craigslist. It said customer service, but it was mostly high end web design stuff with all sorts of qualifications needed. The pay was 10.00 an hour. Even if I had those skills, I would have made like Nopetopus, myself. I went back to get a screen grab to show around on Livejournal, but the ad was gone very quickly. I think CL had received a ton of complaints.

  14. Alex

    I was glad to see that Allison linked to this article! If you want to read more about this, his book titled: “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It” explores the issues further and I think it is a really great read!

  15. Ali

    I am thinking of changing careers and this is what I worry about, wondering if it’ll just be a waste of time to pick a new career and not be able to get a job because “You don’t have experience in (new field)!” I’ve applied for so many jobs that I know I’d be capable of doing, one within my own company. The hiring manager told me “I know you could do this job and I can teach you the way to do it, but you don’t have experience in X.” He ended up making an external hire. I once applied for a writer job at a college and didn’t even get an interview, even though I have four years worth of editing and writing experience.

    When I was trying to break into the sports business, I was applying at the bottom of the barrel of jobs so I could go through the dues-paying process. It’s part of the industry; everyone has to do it. I had a lot of expertise in one sport, but applied in another sport that I also knew about. The hiring manager came back and told me I had a great background and would be an asset to a team, but that he couldn’t bring me on because he wanted someone with experience in his sport.

    You can’t win.

    1. Rana

      Yes. This is how I ended up working for myself: I am able to persuade clients that I have the skills they need, but can’t convince employers outside of the field I left that I can do the work. It’s beyond stupid, and I’ve basically given up trying at this point.

    2. HM in Atlanta

      If you can get an internship or two (or experience in new field by using it in a volunteer capacity) it will help a lot. I hired 50 people last year for a hiring initative. A lot of people were looking to switch careers, but the ones that had the most attention were the ones that had some way to show they used the skills. Or, they could explain in layman’s terms how their previous work directly tied to the new field (that ability showed they really had an understanding of new field). Here’s the icing on the cake – all those people who switched careers that we hired? They are the ones who are on the promotion track. They are more agile, react more favorably to change, dig in to find the right answer, etc.

    3. Helen

      Yeah, it’s tough. I’ve been trying to change industries and have gotten interviews but no offers. Since I’ve been unemployed a month, yesterday I started applying to jobs in my previous field. And I’ve already gotten responses (not to mention recruiters calling me, unsolicited). It’s so frustrating, because I know that I have the skills to do other jobs. I really don’t want to be trapped in my previous industry forever.

  16. YourCdnFriend

    Every job I’ve ever had (graduated in 08 and started work right away) has had a trial by fire training plan. Luckily, I’ve worked with companies that are comfortable with errors as you learn things. Honestly, I don’t know how you could train people for the jobs I’ve done. A lot of it is navigating through ambiguous processes and situations; there are no set, do x to accomplish y scenarios.

    Is this skills gap partially because jobs in North America are becoming more ambiguous? Or is it companies who aren’t willing to deal with some trial and error? Maybe both?

    1. rPM

      Same. In my field, the technology changes so fast and there are so few formal processes that no one comes in with truly relevant experience, and if we created a formal training plan we’d have to change it every couple months anyway. My company focuses more on hiring people who can demonstrate strong “soft skills” like critical thinking, ability to learn new technologies, etc, and expects that there will be errors as part of the on-the-job learning experience. It works for me; I’d much rather teach someone how to use a platform or tool than try to teach an adult general problem solving. Even so, finding qualified candidates is surprisingly tough and it does make me wonder if there’s enough focus on these areas in schools.

      My memories of critical thinking exercises in school are few and far between. The only school project I remember that actually built the kind of skills I use today was way back in elementary school when we were told, “You have a budget of X to buy food for your Oregon Trail journey, and your wagon has a weight capacity of Y. Figure out what to buy.” (It was awesome – we actually bought the food, built the wagons, loaded them up, and dragged them through a state park near the school. Wish I’d gotten the chance to tackle a project like that more often.)

  17. down by the river

    Finally, all of this!

    I have been saying this for years. As someone over educated and underemployed I have found it particularly difficult to get hired. For all the skills I have they are rarely the crazy intersection of skill sets most jobs want. Usually these skill sets do not traditionally overlap. Multiple times I have had the experience of applying for a job within my skill set and then when I talk to them they not only want me to do the job I applied for but to do outside sales and manage all the social media. Sales and media might overlap but are not my skill set or what I applied to do. They are dead set on finding one person to do them all even though this is really more than one full time job. If this had happened once I would call it a fluke but reading job descriptions they almost all ask for several different types of skills or say you must have experience with obscure computer systems or other random requirements.

    I never thought about it as a training issue but I think that is a good way to frame it. I always thought of it as a type of tunnel vision for specific skills. Meaning a lack of understanding of how transferable skills or general knowledge allow someone to figure out how to do something new. If someone has general knowledge they still need to be trained or have a learning curve so it really is a lack of willingness to train.

    1. HM in Atlanta

      I call those “jobs not found in nature.” They’re trying to find another “Joe” instead of filling “X Manager”.

      1. Kelly L.

        Great name and summary! I’ve encountered this too. Along with the other annoying one I mentioned upthread, another position I applied for–this one I actually interviewed for and briefly wanted–was a combination administrative assistant and, essentially, waitress. The job would involve coming in way before the office opened to deliver bagels and pastries to various things. I think they either got their budget cut or were replacing a “Joe.”

  18. INTP

    This is a great topic. I’ve seen jobs sit empty for months because the company “didn’t have time to train” anyone on one or two of the many software programs required (even when the person had used similar software and could have trained themselves with time). Most aren’t quite that extreme but as an agency recruiter I saw the same tendency at all levels and in all areas – employers want to provide zero hands-on training, it seems.

    1. Adam

      This is something that’s headbutted my view of what college is supposed to do. I grew up being told that college prepared you for the workforce. But once the market started going sour I began to hear this phrase a lot: “Well really the point of college is to teach you how to learn.”

      I’ve always had trouble not seeing that as a bit condescending but let’s give it to them for the sake of argument. Well if that’s the case shouldn’t it correlate that college teaches you how to learn so that when you start a new job you can dive in, absorb a bunch of new information, and learn what you need to do to be successful at it? Some communication wires are getting crossed it seems…

      1. Kelly L.

        I think it’s a PR move. “We can’t tell you anymore that it’ll get you a job–so we’ll just throw glittering generalities around!”

      2. YourCdnFriend

        I think it’s indicative of the problem. College teaches you how to learn which used to be enough to get you a job because companies were willing to train you. Now, companies aren’t willing to train you but college is still teaching you how to learn.

        1. BRR

          I’m not even sure college teaches you how to learn. To a certain degree it does and it definitely varies by person and school but it’s not like all people graduate college as master learners. So much of college is ability to memorize vs. problem solve and trying to just somehow pass your assignments.

          1. Ezri

            I really, really want to say that college teaches you how to learn. But for me, college was a glorified pseudo-controlled environment to learn ‘responsibility’. I was already pretty independent, but most of the things I really kept from my college years were real-life things – paying for an apartment, moving, taxes, balanced budgets, not missing work because I slept in. It got to the point where my grades took a hit because juggling my jobs (yes, plural) was more important than getting a 4.0.

            I guess the second thing college did for me was provide a four-year buffer to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. But I don’t know if that was a good enough reason to spend four years there – I know a lot of middle-aged folks who are changing careers, my Dad included.

            My degree was ultimately a checkbox – I was able to get a job after graduation primarily due to a really awesome on-campus job that gave me that magical ‘experience’ thing in my field. And I’m going to spend ten years paying that off. I’m not saying that it’s like that for everyone, but that was my experience.

            1. Ezri

              I don’t want that plural jobs thing to make me sound self-congratulatory – I know that many people in the US work multiple jobs to get by. I was trying to highlight how un-crucial my schoolwork felt when I needed to pay real rent with real money. It was incredibly hard, and I admire anyone who can keep that up for any length of time. :/

            2. Kelly L.

              For me, it was largely an immersion course in social skills. Not that I’m great at them now! But I was forbidden to do almost any socializing outside of school as a kid and teen, had the manners of a baboon, and pretty much just had no idea “how to people” as Captain Awkward put it. I had to learn things like how to tip and why one shouldn’t tell depressing medical stories on a first date. And how to date, period. I also had some jobs during this time, though they were mostly on-campus jobs that were really amenable to working with student schedules, etc., and I learned more about annoying jobs a little later.

              I also learned the hard way how not to use credit cards.

            3. INTP

              I think college would ideally have been a time for learning responsibility and figuring out what I want to do with my life, for me. But I wound up hardly growing as a person because I was always in survival/crisis mode – procrastinating my way into a crisis, figuring out how to get out of it (whether by cramming, vyvanse, or BSing my professor), figuring out how to hide it from my parents if I couldn’t. After graduation is when I really got a handle on my ADHD and matured and learned responsibility. I needed remedial life skills before starting college, I guess. I had to start with, “Okay, I’m going to make sure that my dishes get washed and my laundry gets put up this week” style of time management. And it took floundering at a few jobs and being reasonably happy but not willing to spend my life there at a few others to even get near the track of figuring out what I wanted to do. I’m in grad school now and a much better student, I just couldn’t get a handle on myself in undergrad. I learned research skills, learning skills, writing skills, and academic information in undergrad but didn’t have the character-building experience many people talk about.

          2. Mike C.

            I would say my experience in college taught me a great deal about how to learn, how to evaluate sources and so on.

          3. Caroline

            I definitely think this really depends on the school, the program, etc. As a senior in college, I’v had exactly three classes which required memorization. (Biology, Anatomy, and French). All the rest have really been about how to think and problem solve (Math, Computer Science, English) and how to understand the world and people in it (History, Religious Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology). That said, I’m sure in plenty of places, the curriculum is about memorization, but college has definitely made me a better problem solver and a better thinker. Although, to be honest, besides the piece of paper and the computer science classes, I think the value of college was less about job training and more about personal intellectual growth.

            1. Melissa

              I agree with your comment completely – very few of my classes required memorization. Even the biology class I took was more about engaging with the material and critical thinking about evaluating evidence (it was Biology of Women, the biology for non-majors option at my college).

        2. mirror

          I graduated in ’08. The new PR phrase was “Completing college will show employers that you’re not lazy and have work ethic.” But too bad because I’m a millenial who is lazy based solely on my year of birth..

          1. Zillah

            Damn millenials, always wanting to have things handed to them just because they did what everyone said would make them successful. So entitled! How dare they!

            (Millenial here.)

        3. popesuburban

          That’s what my dad always said the value of college was. He said that getting a degree also proved that you have the capability to make and successfully execute a plan. I don’t see anything fundamentally incorrect about either statement, and when he is in a position to hire or recommend someone, he does think about all that. But the man is a unicorn, as far as I can tell, and to an extent he admits that. I completed my degree, I did it well, and I have a wealth of positive reviews from companies I’ve temped at that show that I learn quickly and well. It’s still well-nigh impossible to get a job, even though I learn skills quickly without even being formally trained. 1-3 years’ experience for an entry-level job is what I was looking at when I was downsized in 2008 (from my first “real job” after graduating), and that problem has only compounded. I’m lucky that I blundered into a steady job a year ago– for which I was neither educated nor trained, but at which people tell me I am very good– but I recognize that it was, at heart, luck that got me the temp assignment. Skill made it permanent, but it was too much of a crapshoot to get in the door. “Skills gap” my fanny.

      3. INTP

        If what the workforce wanted in an entry level employee used to be someone with an awareness of the field, some basic skills, and demonstrated intelligence and work ethic, then I can see how the same programs designed years ago for workforce preparation would no longer be sufficient for that and they’d have to find a new marketing angle. It’s unrealistic for a school program to teach the students every single skill that might be needed in a job. Even with computer science, one of the most employable bachelors degrees, a lot of entry level jobs can’t be filled by recent grads because they want years of experience in 20 different languages, frameworks, apps, etc and that would only happen if someone had a 3-year internship or something in the exact same development environment.
        I predict we’ll be moving away from the bachelors as a default and towards trade schools and graduate degrees. The current administration’s goal seems to be pushing everyone towards a bachelors at the expense of funds for graduate study and while it’s a nice idea ideologically (less separation between education levels) I don’t think it is the best for students or the economy unless the employer training situation shifts.

        1. Adam

          And let’s be a real. College is great but we’ve all seen job ads where “Bachelor’s degree” is listed as a requirement when it by no means actually is one. My grade in college chemistry is by no means indicative of my ability to answer a phone and talk to a customer.

          And there’s also the education bubble which I think think is on the verge of bursting. Tuition has gotten absolutely insane this past decade, but the return on investment is no longer as big a selling point as it used to be, and there is definitely not room for everyone to move on the Grad school (and Alison has pointed out numerous times how it may not be a good move anyways). Something is going to have to give somewhere.

          1. INTP

            I think a degree requirement is often thinly veiled classism. I mean, I get it if you don’t want to hire a 19-year-old who has completed no major feat of responsibility in their lives. But when you’re dealing with seasoned professionals whose job histories demonstrate that they have all the skills you need, it shouldn’t really matter whether 5, 10, 20, 40+ years ago, when they got out of high school, they went to college or joined the military or started working full-time. A lot of companies will require a degree for “company culture” reasons, not even caring what the degree is in – and when the the only thing it can really say about someone that work history cannot is their socioeconomic situation at the time they graduated high school, it’s hard not to be cynical about the kind of culture they’re trying to foster.

            (Again, I’m talking about people with demonstrated work experience. If you want to require a degree for entry-level candidates as a demonstration of responsibility and reasonable intelligence, that’s debatable but valid. But you don’t need a college record to know that your candidates for the VP job are smart and responsible, they wouldn’t be candidates if they weren’t. And I’ve seen VP- and Director-level candidates with strong military records rejected because they don’t have a degree.)

            1. Adam

              I agree the degree conundrum may have some subtle hints of elitism behind it. Just look at Not Here or There’s statement about Executive Assistant positions that require a Masters Degree for $15 an hour paycheck.

              I’ve seen many times in these comments people praising their EA’s up and down, proclaiming that a fantastic one is worth their weight in gold. And I believe it. But the things that make an awesome EA aren’t taught in a classroom, and cutting out just such a person because they don’t have an expensive piece of paper is shortsighted if not downright tragic.

        2. Anx

          “The current administration’s goal seems to be pushing everyone towards a bachelors at the expense of funds for graduate study and while it’s a nice idea ideologically (less separation between education levels) I don’t think it is the best for students or the economy unless the employer training situation shifts.”

          Don’t get me started…

          The government is about a decade behind. They still trump education as the path out of poverty. But it’s become a path to poverty. Every employment agency I’ve been with to help me find a job after college tried to send me to college. There was no help for any job training if you already had a bachelor’s degree. And maybe it’s not the governments job at all (maybe businesses should hire people with limited experience and train them), but this pretense about skills and education gaps is pretty short-sighted.

          1. Zillah

            They still trump education as the path out of poverty. But it’s become a path to poverty.

            So true. And the fact that the government is willing to hand out unlimited loans for the privilege of attending college does not help – it just digs students further into an already painful hole.

      4. marci

        Colleges are not designed to train people for the workforce. For years and years and years the ONLY available programs of college study were the liberal arts: Latin, Greek, English, biology, political economy, mathematics, philosophy. That was all. And many of those people went on to good jobs because they had shown aspiration and a willingness to invest in themselves. People respected them. We need to adopt a bit more of that thinking. I know biology majors who work in banks. I know music majors who work in accounting. I know theater majors who work in customer service. You CAN train smart to do new things. In fact, they enjoy it!

  19. Clever Name

    This is one thing that I really like about my company. We promote from within and we hire true entry level folks right out of college and train them to do the work. We see it as a growth opportunity for the people doing the training as well.

    1. YourCdnFriend

      My company is pretty good at this as well. Often this blog is a nice reminder that I am very, very lucky.

      1. INTP

        My company hires true recent grads, but nearly all of them leave quickly for another field entirely. People get promoted from within but it’s a bottom heavy company and industry in general, so there’s nowhere for most of them to go.

    1. BRR

      They covered internships on broad city recently where she realized it was slavery. I felt it was a very good analogy.

  20. Mike C.

    I think my favorite complaint is the one about “applicants not having the skills we need” when those skills consists of experience with proprietary information, systems or programs that are specific to that company. I mean really, come on.

    1. PD

      Yeah, or they want experience in something that they’re practically the only place that uses, even if it’s not proprietary.

      1. EarlGrey

        Or software that’s so expensive, you’re not going to develop skills in it unless your employer pays for the license….

        (Funny though, I’m actually having the opposite of the proprietary software issue – spending so much time on mastering my current employer’s proprietary stuff, I never use the more common software I see listed in job postings!)

    2. MousyNon

      ugh omg this. e.g. “Must have experience with SAP”

      DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY DIFFERENT VARIATIONS OF SAP THERE ARE?!?

      Oh, or another favorite, listing experience with a slate of software that are niche-specific (but not necessarily company-specific) as required, when that software is designed to be new-user friendly and someone with sufficient technical experience could easily pick it up. “Must have experience with Chocolate Tea Pot PDF Creator and Coffee Maker” (ignoring the fact that it takes 10 minutes to set up and get someone rolling).

      1. Sascha

        That’s pretty much every learning management system. They’re not hard to use. They’re not hard to maintain on the front-end. They basically all follow the same design concepts and workflows. But every hiring manager in education seems to want 10+ years experience on their specific LMS that they ignore anything else, or just general technical aptitude, period.

      2. AndersonDarling

        The SAP issue is crazy. I had a month contract to do some SAP work and the interview with the manager went nowhere. He kept using the internal names for the modules and I had to guess what he was talking about. Eventually I asked, “Do you type ME3 at the prompt?” He confirmed and then I was able to understand what he needed.

    3. Colette

      During the tech boom, companies in my area advertised for developers with skills using a software language that was proprietary to the company I worked for – and thus would be of no practical use to the companies advertising for it.

      1. Mike C.

        Kind of like those job postings that asked for 5+ years experience in a language that has only existed for two. Those are always special.

    4. INTP

      Or even if it isn’t propriet there are 10 different softwares and a candidate must have extensive experience in every single one. So basically they have to be from the same company or one with the exact same brands and versions of ERP, CRM, and every other kind of software and what are the chances of that? Then they have time for the position to sit empty for months yet they don’t have time to let someone read some training materials and get up to speed on what the buttons and menus look like in their ERP versus the one the candidate is used to.

    5. MaryMary

      I was just about to post on this. Training at multiple career levels is a big issue too. OldJob used a several different proprietary systems. They were really great about training entry level employees, I think I had six weeks of classroom training. They were also willing to hire anyone with strong analytical and communication skills, I worked with business majors, chemistry majors, poli sci majors, math majors, English majors, economics majors…

      However, there was a persistent problem trying to hire middle management positions. You needed industry knowledge, management skills, and experience with our proprietary systems. New hire training only covered the basics, it was hard to teach system analysis level knowledge. It was practically impossible to teach the level of familiarity needed to be able to tell a client, “No, the system can’t support A, but if we do B and communicate it like C, it will get you pretty close to what you wanted.” A main reason I left was that I didn’t have anyone supporting my teams in a “lead” role (between manager and analyst), and I was looking at going another 2-4 years before any of my analysts could build the skillset to be promoted.

  21. Mike C.

    On the flip side, my employer offers extensive training. It results in workers who entered as high school grads on the floor becoming managers and engineers with multiple college degrees who stay and grow with the company for decades. None of this “forced job hopping for a promotion” crap, none of the turnover you see in many other industries.

    Look, you get what you pay for. If you make the choice to ignore the long view, you suffer the consequences for doing so. Quit complaining that other people aren’t picking up the slack.

    1. C Average

      What kind of training do you offer, and how is it delivered? I’d love to hear a training success story. We’ve found successful training to be really hard. We’ve made big strides, but it continues to be quite a challenge.

      1. Mike C.

        We have a bunch of internal training (lots of web based and classroom based with electronic certification tracking) as well as an extensive college reimbursement program. With the latter they do restrict you to certain majors/fields, but it’s still a huge list.

        Lots of folks worry that once they train people they’ll move elsewhere, but lots of people here stay because they’re able to grow in many different ways.

    2. AustinP

      My employer is like this as well. In fact (and this may give it away), new hires out of college are required to take 85 days of training within the first five years, as well as complete three different rotations in different parts of the business. There are not many (if any!) people in the C level that didn’t start in this company and work their way up. Turnover is very, very small. I realize this isn’t typical, but it sure seems to work.

    3. Clever Name

      Yep. The person that I’m guessing will probably run the company when the current owner retires has worked here for 18 years and started as a project assistant right out of high school. She’s moved her way up to technician to project manager to operations manager.

    4. Peep!

      “Look, you get what you pay for.”

      (Or don’t pay for.) EXACTLY. +1,000,000. I’m so frustrated. Pick me, magical unicorn company!

  22. C Average

    I wonder, too, though, if expectations around training also ain’t what they used to be.

    It used to be that “training” meant getting a binder full of material, reading it, having access to someone who could answer your questions about it, and then starting your job with some kind of designated go-to person handy to clarify anything that might be confusing.

    And periodic up-training meant going to a session of some kind where you received a new binder full of material, sat in a room with other people, and listened to a lecture-format presentation about the material.

    Now there are a lot more expectations around training. It needs to be engaging, it needs to cater to different learning styles, it needs to fit on various screens. It needs to be constantly kept current. It needs to be interactive and dynamic. In many cases, it needs to serve a global audience.

    My department has three full-time trainers and a manager who oversees them, and the amount of time they spend developing content (versus delivering it) is crazy. As soon as they complete a module, it’s out of date. The information and processes and instructions evolve too fast for any system we’ve tried to keep up with them.

    I don’t know the solution. I just know that training as a concept has evolved a lot, and given the expectations around training, I can understand why businesses don’t deliver as much of it as they used to.

    1. Rex

      +1 to all your points. In some of these fields, some parts of the work are changing so fast, even the “experts” are barely keeping up, much less figuring out how to train others.

    2. Helen

      In my experience, the training you describe is really just to check a box for compliance or HR purposes. No one actually learns anything that way, so it should be supplemented with shadowing and having a point person like you mentioned. Unfortunately, many employers think that showing someone a powerpoint is training.

      1. Adam

        Interesting. I was going to say, at the risk of sounding insensitive, while there is merit in aiming to improve teaching techniques and appeal to a broader style of learner so more can benefit, I think in the end a lot of it may just have to come down with plopping a giant instruction manual in front of someone and saying “Learn this.” Either you figure it out, or you flounder.

  23. MousyNon

    Great article. This false but pernicious “skills gap” claim really does come from declining/stagnating wages overall, I think. People with experience are forced to move on to maintain (not even improve, just MAINTAIN because inflation) their standard of living, so companies scramble to fill positions that require knowledge and training to do successfully. Of course, they’re not willing to pay for it (as they weren’t for the outgoing employee) because “overhead overhead overhead” so they end up with a pool of workers that are inexperienced, unskilled, or both OR that are over-experienced but underemployed. This results in quite a bit more turnover because their new-hires are either being set up to fail or are woefully underpaid and know it, and so the cycle of hiring/rehiring for the same position continues.

    Then, of course, companies complain about inexperienced, unskilled workers with no company loyalty and yell at policy makers and universities to fix it, and when wages are broached as a possible solution to the problem the narrative suddenly becomes “well Americans just need to be okay with less!” “Spoiled millenials!” “BOOTSTRAPS” and “BUT JOB CREATORS…(pay no attention to my profits this quarter).”

    ….urgh.

  24. The Strand

    Peter Capelli is the bomb. He has an excellent book which goes into a lot more details about his ideas, and if memory serves, it’s only about $5 on Kindle.

  25. Rex

    I bet a lot of this dovetails with the uptick in contract work, which means employers are less invested in training, since they don’t see their employees as “permanent”.

    1. JM in England

      +1 Rex!

      I entered the workforce in the early 90s and it took 7 long years of temp/contract jobs before landing my first permanent role. In all of the temp roles, I received minimal training and was told simply to “get on with it” My field is in science and when I was repeatedly refused training on a particular instrument, I bit the bullet and went on a three day course paid for out of my own pocket. This investment proved prudent because I left my then-job, the next one had a pay hike of three times the course fee!

      Sadly though, the work mindset developed during my temp days has stuck………….

  26. MT

    From my experience, as someone with an engineering degree, my first job provided a ton of training. That training came at a cost, I spent the first 2 years working crappy shift and moving frequently. After moving on from that job, I haven’t had formal mentoring or training since in any of my jobs since then. Every company is looking for someone who can hit the ground running.

  27. Sabrina

    Off-topic, did anyone else read that as Peter Capaldi was the author? And was then disappointed when you realized it wasn’t?

  28. Situational Leadership

    My company offered the Situational Leadership training that flipped a huge lightbulb on in my head. The premise is that even if a person is smart, competent, has soft skills, etc., they still have to start from square 1 on a few tasks. Even if it’s just knowing how this particular office makes coffee (where supplies are stored, general schedule if one exists, how to alert someone or re-order when supplies run low, etc.), that is still something that must be learned. It’s not that someone is too stupid or too lazy to refill the shared coffee pot, but it would be crazy not to show them how to do this when they arrive! The same is true with higher-level skills, like file management, scheduling protocols, a different system or hierarchy to send an email blast, etc. Plus, with the level of specialization that many fields have, each job is a special snowflake. Even at the highest pay grades, you still have to give someone the time and tools to ramp up effectively. That’s not a gap in skills, it’s a gap in expectations for adding value. As several commenters have mentioned, requiring “skills” that are actually proprietary knowledge that can only be learned once on the job, trying to replace the last person vs. fill the actual role/job description all make it seem like there are no skilled people.

    1. Jen

      “The premise is that even if a person is smart, competent, has soft skills, etc., they still have to start from square 1 on a few tasks.” This is the problem I’ve encountered in a few interviews. No matter how hard I work at showing that my prev. experience/training/skills are either transferable, or indicate I’m able to pick up their specific process, I’ll get a person on the interview panel that its a sticking point for them.

    2. Suzanne

      Yes. At one job, I had to order supplies from vendors, and was only allowed to use certain vendors. Seems simple, right? Could I get a list of those vendors? No. Did I ask? More than once in the two years I was there. One of the few vendors I managed to discover did have a discount code, but did anyone let me know? No, not until I ordered and was asked why I didn’t get the discounted price.
      That’s the kind of “skills gap” I think we’re talking about.

      1. Three Thousand

        Yeah, I’ve had a job where one of the required skills I lacked was telepathy. Didn’t go over well.

        1. Elfie

          This! My current job (well, current BigBoss) seems to practice management by telepathy. Funnily enough, he doesn’t seem to get what he wants a lot of the time. Gee, I wonder why…

    3. Not So NewReader

      This.
      If you define everything you see/need as a “skill” then no one will ever be able to fit the description.

      I remember massive confusion in my college classes over what a “skill” is. Well, right here is why that confusion exists. When employers call everything in sight a skill, employees will toss their hands up in the air and say “I don’t have ESP. I don’t automatically know everything it is that you want!”

      Alison, you almost have another article right here with all these very good comments.

  29. Joey

    But that also means a full 70% of employers are meeting or exceeding people’s salary needs. That sounds pretty good actually.

    1. Kelly L.

      No, that means 30% acknowledge it. How many won’t say so, or haven’t even acknowledged it to themselves yet? This is self-reported, keep in mind.

  30. Sydney Bristow

    My first job out of college had a great training program, which was definitely part of what appealed to me about the company. We were all training for management roles but had to start doing physical work in the warehouse. The thinking was that in order to run things smoothly it was best to know how every stage of the process worked. We had an individual person in charge of our training at each level who was actually one of the people performing that task on a regular basis. We also had a person in management who we worked with as well to determine which path we ultimately wanted to take. There was also the typical type of training with books of material to learn about the industry and occasional tests on that material. Mostly the training was hands on and I thought it was very beneficial.

    1. katamia

      I think that’s a great idea. I agree that it’s really important to understand a business at every level if you want to run it.

  31. Thomas W

    I honestly think banning unpaid full-time internships would help in this situation. Then you’d make low-cost training programs accessible to a lot more students (not just the ones wealthy enough to work full time for no money).

    1. Joey

      I’m all for banning unpaid internships that aren’t part of a degree program and banning so called job training companies.

      If companies want people to do work they need to pay them and suck up the costs for training their folks.

      Pushing those costs off reminds me of these ridiculous sports teams that want citizens to fund the hundreds of millions of dollars for new stadiums while the well off reap the returns.

    2. Zillah

      I agree. I’m not super opposed to unpaid internships that don’t require a huge time commitment – e.g., 6-7 hours a week or something – but every time I see “35 hours a week, unpaid” I want to hurt someone. If you want someone for 35 hours a week, pay them.

  32. neverjaunty

    And then there are people who don’t want to do training because when THEY were new, nobody spoon-fed them and the new kids should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and argle blargh. Never mind the effect on the business of having untrained people learn purely by trial and error, the important thing is the moral satisfaction of knowing that nobody had an easier time of it than they did.

    1. Kelly L.

      I’ve never quite understood the whole idea of “XYZ sucked for me, so it must suck for everybody else to make it fair!” You’d think people would instead think “XYZ sucked for me, maybe we should figure out ways to make it suck less for the next people.”

      1. EarlGrey

        Not to mention suck less for the business. No one benefits from a new employee spending hours looking for a how-to document or tracking down the right contact person.

        …Though I can kind of understand having “great source of institutional knowledge” as part of your work identity, and wanting to hang on to that. It’s not a good reason to resist change, but I get why people do it.

        1. Anx

          Yep. There’s a person in my life who I think only has their job because they refuse to hand over any of that institutional knowledge. They usually also refuse to do their job, but no worries! Because no one wants to deal with the several weeks it would take to deal with the temporary fall out

      2. Elsajeni

        I can understand it — I think a lot of people are thinking, essentially, “Why didn’t anyone care this much when I was struggling? Wasn’t I as deserving of help as this new person?” Which is a pretty sympathetic and understandable feeling… if you can manage not to let it turn into “Well, if I didn’t deserve this help, NOBODY deserves it! And nobody can have it! SO THERE!”

      3. Not So NewReader

        “XYZ sucked for me, so it must suck for everybody else to make it fair!”

        I can’t count how many times I have seen this one. It’s pure anger. That is what is driving the comment and the behavior. I have seen it in my own family. Dear Family Member learned to weld by picking up the machine and turning it on. Decades later, someone asked for training, he went on and on about how he just picked the thing up and started welding. And this is a person that was sane about every thing else.

        That is a long time to carry that anger around. All I can do is try not to be that person.

      4. Anonamouse

        I’ve been in the situation where I was the most senior person on the team due to a whopping three months on the job. during the forth month I was expected to train the six new hires starting to proficiency. I was barely holding things together and getting the major deliverables out the door to be able to train and cover everything topic that was supposed to be transferring knowledge about because I didn’t even know all of it.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into this before–the person training me knew less than I did! That is why I write procedural documents wherever I go.

    2. MaryMary

      Of course, there are also defensive people who refuse to train other people thinking they’ll have job security if they’re the only one who knows how to do a process. Which makes it even more important to create training and documentation processes at an organizational level.

      There’s the flip side too. My dad finished his career at a very small organization, about 10 employees. For a good year before he retired, he started reminding his boss that they needed to start looking for his replacement, so there was time for transition and training (it was custom manufacturing work, so documentation wasn’t the best option). The boss kept putting it off, and a month before he was scheduled to retire my dad needed major surgery and ended up never returning to work. Transition planning is underrated.

    3. Linguist curmudgeon

      Ah, yes. The good old “I am a dirt farmer so that my son may be a dirt farmer and his son, also a dirt farmer.” None of this intergenerational progress, no sirree Bob!

  33. Annika Potato

    Couldn’t agree with this more. I make a lot of money (over 150k) as a lawyer and basically came into the job willing to live in the office. I received zero training – the culture of the firm is to leave people to flounder (“sink or swim”). No administrative training, very little technical training, no logistics training. Nothing. My frustration grew to the point of exploding and now my response is to basically do very little and just be an unproductive employee. I have no idea why the firm is willing to spend basically millions in benefits, salary, bonus and opportunity cost but can’t be bothered to actually give an employee the tools to be successful.

    1. College Career Counselor

      Because they can’t bill your training to the client, and any time you spend in non-billable activity is “lost revenue.”

  34. Koko

    I’m fortunate that my employer sends me to a healthy amount of training each year, which I’m allowed to choose for myself (with approval from my manager). One thing I’ve noticed from both attending and speaking at conferences is that what everybody most wants to attend and leaves feeling like they got the most out of are case studies, peer roundtables, and workshops. I think this is why it’s foolish to expect colleges to cover the “skills gap” – workers don’t need more theory and industry statistics, which is what you usually get from school. They need to hear as many real-world examples as they can: here’s a real-world application that we tested, here’s the data showing the results of the test, and here are examples of other ways to apply the same underlying principles. People want to leave with a notepad full of actionable ideas based on what other people are having success doing. To get that kind of training you need to be hearing from current leaders working in the field about what they’re actually doing in concrete terms. You can get that at a high-quality conference, or through informal networking groups where you meet and swap stories with other people in your field, but it’s rare you’ll get game-changing training from a college class (or someone else within your own company, either, since they can only bring you up to par with your coworkers, not impart anything new that grows the company’s knowledgebase).

    1. Not So NewReader

      Yep. I have to agree. If you can find working profs at school, those are the people to take classes from. I had a marketing prof that was the greatest- she had so much real world experience. We would go over something and she would say “This is BS and here’s why”. Oh my. Did we ever learn. I have never seen a class like this where everyone got sucked into the prof’s enthusiasm. She constantly had hands-on projects where we collected information and worked it into a report. I can honestly say, most of the class had fun. It was a lot of work, but it was real.

      1. Editor

        A co-worker of mine was once asked to be in a panel that was talking about working in the profession. It was set up by a group of students who invited people working in the field to come talk at the college for an annual “Career Day” type of program. He was excited about doing a presentation at his former college.

        He was disinvited less than 24 hours before the panel began because an advisor of the student group didn’t want someone who’d dropped out from the major invited to talk about working in the field. He was basically told that once he’d gotten his degree he’d be qualified to tell students what his job was like.

  35. Anonsie

    My favorite tidbit on this subject, though it’s specific to tech, is this one (I’ll reply with the link). She talks about companies lamenting that they can’t get qualified workers while digging in their heels and saying they won’t pay competitive market salaries. I’m partial to the bit about companies trying to use dumb perks to fill in their un-competitive wages.

    And a clarifying point about the commute, if it sounds whiny to refuse to drive to the burbs or across town, fair warning that such a drive is easily 1.5-2+ hours in literally dead stopped traffic in Austin. It’s not a screwing around commute, it is one of the worst commutes in the nation right up there with LA.

    1. Joey

      Well if you’re going to live in a town with congestion it’s pretty much expected that you accept the effects of it. As the crow flies, Austin isn’t that big. So to say you won’t drive around town is pretty much telling people your commute expectations are pretty out of whack. Especially when there are people that are willing to commute to and from San antonio.

      1. Anonsie

        That’s not really true. For one, no one is ok with the commute in Austin. This isn’t one person saying “I refuse the norm,” the norm is to make an arrangement that avoids that commute by moving one part of your life or the other. You move closer to your job or you get a job closer to home. By putting their campuses out in remote business parks, these folks are eliminating both possibilities and necessitating a crummy commute and are indeed finding people will reject a job over it. Enough people to cause a “shortage” if you will, though it’s mostly a misalignment of expectations, it’s preventing people from relocating to Austin and encouraging people to leave for greener pastures. And no one commutes to Round Rock from San Antonio unless they are under some really desperate circumstances.

        Second, the “desperate” part there is the point. The article is specifically about companies trying to poach engineers from other tech hub cities to come to Austin while putting their locations in places that require that insane commute but won’t meet the salary expectations of these other cities. Those engineers are not desperate for work. She’s pointing out that of course no one wants to relocate to Austin to have a horrific commute for less pay than they’d be getting where they currently are. Why would anyone? Locals are leaving over it, even, how could you ever expect to entice people to relocate for such a poor deal?

        1. Joey

          Oh I’m not suggesting you cant hate it, just that employers expect you to accept that that’s part of living in Austin

  36. Suzanne

    “What employers really want are workers they don’t have to train … Companies simply haven’t invested much in training their workers.” A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.L.Y I lost a long-time job in 2008 (employer ceased to exist) and the first job I had after that was a nightmare. I left just short of a year still really having no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I had no job description and the training pretty much consisted of showing me where the bathroom was and how the fax machine worked. There were data bases and content management systems I needed to access but no one would give me information on how they worked and what they were really for; just use them but don’t spend too much time. I would consistently be asked for documents and reports that no one bothered to inform me I was supposed to do. “Oh, well,” they’d say, “put those statistics together when you get a chance” but trying to find out where I could get the statistics was like pulling teeth with a rusty pliers.
    I thought this was an aberration but subsequent jobs told a different story. It was pretty much the same story over and over. Here’s a desk, but you’ll have to wait two weeks for your computer and don’t expect that anyone will show you how the intranet works, or where you find supplies, etc. It wasn’t until my current job that I actually had a computer with access the day I started, which was highly unusual compared to other places I’ve been.

    The sad thing is that a company that refuses to train me tells me that they don’t much care about the work quality but just want somebody sitting at that desk doing stuff. Personally, if my employer doesn’t care enough to show me how things are done in their company, and why it’s important that they be done that way, I’ll assume it’s not important and not care much.

  37. LiteralGirl

    I got my job because I had a coworker willing to teach me the basics on the sly so that when a position opened up, I would have the minimum skills to do it. I filled in for six months while doing my first job and was hired into the current one. My manager keeps telling me that I need to expand my programming skills for the position and includes it in my development plan for each year. I’ve requested training but have been told that there is no money for it. The solution – do projects that are a stretch for me and ask people for help when I don’t know what to do. I have been doing that, but it slows down the completion of requests and makes it difficult to provide an end date to customers (luckily internal). It is really frustrating, for both me and my customers.

    1. Owl's That

      At my last job (a semi-technical role) all training (bar HR orientation) for new Teapot Makers was delivered peer to peer. Of course, we were expected to fully keep up with our busy workloads while somehow supporting new hires through many hours of training on our many propriety processes and propriety software. I always dreaded it when new people first joined the team, because not only did it put a strain on my own workload (hello, late nights!) and make me feel really stressed, but I just didn’t have time to train them as thoroughly as they deserve. Ironically, I’ve never received training on how to train people, but managers always got out of training new Teapot Makers because they were ‘too busy’. Funnily enough, when I mentioned my lack of training time to my manager, his actual words were ‘You should be working longer than your hours anyway so that the company gets full value out of you’. Needless to say, I no longer work there.

  38. EvilQueenRegina

    I remember once when my mum was recruiting for a position, there was one candidate who had done the same role before (but for a different team). This one person on the panel, who would have had to have trained up a new hire, latched on to this fact and gave her top marks for every question at interview automatically, regardless of what she had actually answered, so that they would hire someone who wouldn’t have needed training.

    That person was eventually hired, but it wasn’t unanimous.

  39. Vicki

    My first job after grad school started in Sept 1984. I didn’t get any “training”. In every job since, I don’t recall ever getting “training.” I learned, however, on the job. I learned well.

    I don;t see lack of “training”to be the issue. The issue is more insidious. Companies expect employees who are already experts. The idea of learning on the job is no longer part of the deal.

    Worse, they expect expertise in a such a wide range of areas, it’s nearly impossible to be expert in everything. Every job description has multiple “requirements” checkboxes; miss checking one and you’re out of the running.

  40. Satanic Mechanic

    I also wonder how much of the problem is related to the increasing wage gaps between C-suite employees and the rank and file? Certainly, great leadership is a rare skill and one that must be paid for, but I’ve really begun to wonder about companies that spend tremendous amounts on a new CEO, President, CFO, or whatever, but think nothing of letting a 10+ year great employee walk out the door over a few thousand dollars?

    1. esra

      See, that’s my thing. Is great leadership really worth 330x what the average worker makes and over 700x minimum wage? I mean honestly. No one is irreplaceable and I have yet to hear a good argument for a CEO making tens of millions of dollars while wages remain frozen and they won’t hire to fill the roles of people who leave.

      1. Koko

        Unfortunately, it’s not something that can be justified based on an argument. It’s just a version of the prisoner’s dilemma. The people make those absurd salaries are so used to making them and have so many companies willing to pay them that much, that if any one company doesn’t match, they’ll lose out on the best talent. Not because that talent is worth $3.4 million in some objective sense, but because the talent can get $3.4 million elsewhere so why would they accept $1.5 million? It’s the same way all the gas stations at one intersection are always within a penny of each other. The big multinational corporations are in bidding wars with each other over the relatively small number of people who *grin* already have successful experience and so don’t need any training to run a large multinational corporation.

        1. esra

          I’m not saying I have a good solution. Although I really don’t see how it will be tenable in the long run.

  41. katamia

    I can’t remember ever having gotten any kind of training for a job I’ve had, not even an inventory job I completely failed at without said training–my managers were supposed to show me where the things I was supposed to be counting were (my job was basically walking around and making tally marks on a piece of paper), but they kept squirreling things away in odd places so my counts were always off because I didn’t know where I was supposed to be looking. They also never taught me how to use the software I was supposed to input my counts into. I wonder if I would still be there (it wasn’t a great job, but it wasn’t a terrible one, or it wouldn’t have been with a map) if they’d taken the time to train me a bit.

    Most of my other jobs have been in education, so other than “This is your classroom” I’m not really sure what specific training I could have gotten. But then my qualification isn’t good to teach in most schools in the country I’m in, so maybe there’s a lot of stuff out there for people who are doing more traditional education careers.

    1. katamia

      I mean, yes, there’s professional development for education, but while it can make you a better teacher, it’s typically not necessary to actually be able to teach the way that, say, using a particular accounting software could be necessary to do an accounting-related job.

    2. Lizzie

      I feel like in the school environment, I don’t run into so many things that I need training for as I do things that need a) better communication, b) more lead time, and c) the opportunity to ask questions before I jump in. (Invariably, whenever I have to give a standardized test with special education accommodations, I find out about it five minutes before the test starts – which is challenging if I don’t already know the student and his/her accommodations well.) Most of the professional development we get isn’t so much “Here’s how to teach X,” it’s “You already teach X, but here are some other strategies you could use to teach X.”

      Happily, my district pays a sizeable chunk of our continuing education (which is usually through university-based or university-affiliated courses), where I do learn a lot of useful stuff! Reading this thread makes me feel pretty lucky about that opportunity to further my professional knowledge.

  42. PlainJane

    Somewhat related is the fact that so many companies shy away from giving their own workers stretch assignments. At my former employer, whenever there was a big project to do, they brought in (very expensive) consultants. There are several problems with doing that all the time: it sends a message to your people that you don’t think they can do the job, your people don’t get the experience that running the project would provide, and when the project is over, the consultants leave – taking everything they learned with them. A different previous employer bucked this trend. My manager gave me, a junior staffer, a big project to manage and hired a temp to cover my day-to-day work so I could take the time needed to do the job right. It went well, and that experience was key to my promotion to management. I wish more companies considered that approach instead of the knee-jerk, “let’s hire a consultant,” response.

    1. Jennifer

      On the other hand, where I work I did get “stretch” assignments when they were low on staff and wanted someone to fill in for a few months without having to hire someone else. Sadly none of those stints actually allowed me to get HIRED in those areas, but at least I have something to add to the resume.

      1. Elfie

        Somewhat tangentially to this, I find that whenever I’m overloaded and ask for help on things, the person (consultant or peer) who comes over to help me always ends up getting the interesting stuff, and I get stuck with the grunt work. Unless my evaluation of my skills and capabilities is totally out of whack with others’ evaluation (and based on my 360 feedback, it’s not!), I can’t understand why this would constantly be the case. It’s not like the interesting stuff is the easiest to hand over, either. Sometimes I think why should I bother asking for help, if all that’s going to happen is the elements of my job that keep me in my (really really crappy) job are taken away, and all I’m left with is the drudgery?

  43. Purr purr purr

    I would tend to agree with that. Before I graduated, I interviewed at a few places and wanted to make sure it was a good fit for both sides. At one place I asked about the chances of being able to publish journal articles, secondments in their other departments, and chances to go to the offices abroad and they confirmed I could do all those things so I chose to work for them. I continued to ask about a secondment in a closely-related department to the one I was in. Learning how to do what they did would have been of great benefit, not just to myself but also to my department. In 2008 we had an industry downturn, I asked about the secondment once again since we were struggling to find enough work to occupy ourselves so it seemed like a good time to do training elsewhere and I was told ‘no.’ And then obviously when the industry picked back up, the reason became that we were too busy and they couldn’t spare me.

    One of the reasons why I ended up leaving that job was the lack of training they were willing to provide. I took courses on my own but some things can only be learned from experiencing them in the ‘real world’ rather than just learning theory.

  44. So Very Anonymous

    At my workplace, there’s increasing pressure for us to be able to train others on things we haven’t had any training on, and won’t get any training on. I think the idea is that if we teach it to ourselves, we’ll be able to teach others to teach it to themselves. I’m from a higher education background and this feels weird to me — if I were a student/patron/client, I would want to feel like the person training me actually knew what they were talking about, but there’s a belief that instead, we can learn right along with the patron while “teaching” them. I’m familiar with peer learning and learning-by-teaching, but I do think that at some point someone needs to have had more advanced training if they’re going to do training (if that makes sense?). I learned to teach (and also how NOT to teach) partly by paying attention to how I was taught, and for me training isn’t just training, it’s also an opportunity to see how the training is done, so I’d have something to model my own training work on.

  45. Jennifer

    Okay, I’m back from my interview today, let me report back to you on how it went.

    I was not asked about my weaknesses, or my goals 5 years from now, or any of the usual sorts of things we worry about. The questions were entirely “Tell us about having done X before at work,” “tell us about having done Y before at work,” “tell us about having done Z before at work.” Some of which I had done and some of which I had not. I don’t have a job that involves my making travel arrangements, which turns out to be Very Crucial to them. (And they did not mention this in the job application, and had I seen it I would have known to not apply.) They asked about my experiences being woken up in the middle of the night by emergency e-mails, which I can’t say comes up in my current job either. And when I asked if I was going to get enough of a good setup to be able to work from home if they expect me to answer e-mails in the middle of the night, they looked at me blankly. I asked about the learning curve of the job and they explained that they wanted someone who already had all of the skills for it so that person could “hit the ground running” and they didn’t have to do training.

    So….yeah, I’m not going to get that job. I’m sure they’ll find someone else who’s done travel just fine because most people at my level have, it just doesn’t go along with my job. I don’t know why they interviewed me, really, maybe the pickins are slightly smaller. I may have about 70-80% of what they want in soft skills, but in hard skills of doing their travel arrangements, I don’t and they don’t wanna bother with training me. So there you go.

    1. voluptuousfire

      Ah, yes that “we need x and it’s mandatory” but yet they don’t put it in the ad at all. A few years back I was approached by a 3rd party recruiter for a temp job and they submitted me for it but I was rejected because I hadn’t any experience with travel arrangements. I saw the same job pop up a month later (the company advertised directly) and I re-applied. I not only passed the phone screen but I was invited for an in person interview. The JD was still the same but having the travel arrangement experience wasn’t even mentioned. I didn’t get the role (I don’t think they even filled it) but it’s kind of shocking how it went from being a dealbreaker to not even being mentioned.

    2. Hit the ground flailing

      I’ve heard the “hit the ground running” thing so many times it’s become a joke to me. In my opinion, no one ever hits the ground running. There’s always a learning curve. Just because you worked at a teapot factory before doesn’t mean that you’ll hit the ground running at a different factory because they very probably do things differently.

      One of my former employers used a very weird software. It wasn’t in common use and it wasn’t user friendly. When we had an applicant come in who had experience with this software we were thrilled. We hired her largely based on the fact that she would have a leg up when she started. Well, guess what? The place where she’d worked before used the software very differently than we did. Additionally, since that program was somewhat customizable the module screens didn’t even look familiar to her.

      1. Jennifer

        Hah, yeah. And even if I “hit the ground running,” he admitted the learning curve was still 6-12 months. Duh.

        You have to do some training, no matter what. If they can’t deal with that, I guess they’re not gonna hire anyone?

  46. Fruitfly

    If schools cannot “produce” the workers that companies want, then what are schools for? You barely learn anything in high school, so you go to college to learn some more. However, that is still not enough due to the decline in education quality of colleges and some grad schools. A company can’t be like a school that is devoted to teaching and it will most likely not hire high school grads and train them to be like a college student. It is so hard to learn skills these days!

  47. NewishAnon

    This is so interesting… and right on target. The other day my husband, who has 12 years of progressively difficult technical support experience, and who very clearly demonstrates his ability to perform at a high level and learn technology quickly, applied for a tech job that asked for significantly less experience than he has and was rejected with 30 minutes! The reason: he lacked experience in one particular skill they were asking for. The level they were seeking was low to, someone with only 2 years in that skill. As someone with 12 years doing very similar work, he could have easily made the transition.

    I thought they really missed the mark and now that I read this, it makes me think they are expecting someone who comes with the full package. I am not sure how that is possible when you are looking for 2 years experience in a multitude of different technologies. It’s unlikely that someone entry level would possess so many skills and its equally as unlikely that they will find someone experienced who does have ALL of those skills who is also willing to work for the pay of an entry level position.

    My husband was somewhere in-between and we want to relocate which is why he applied for it. They also gave no opportunity for a cover letter, so they are clearly very focused on specific skill set and aren’t interested in what someone has to say about their abilities to do the things listed on the job posting.

  48. HR Manager

    There is a lot of truth in the article, but I also think sometimes employees are not helping their cause. If I were to survey my managers now (and in any company I’ve worked in), they will all tell me they think of themselves as strong coaches who spends time developing (i.e., training) employees. About 75% of that is baloney – maybe not intentionally, but they think they do enough and they don’t. Most managers still think training as I send them to the occasional training or I give them the choice assignment. That’s only part of the job. Managers need to give consistent feedback, and hold employees to the behavioral changes they want out of them. If there is a budget, an investment in a training is only a small part of the equation, but that can be thrown in too. Feedback and accountability for change due to that feedback is the #1 development tool that doesn’t get used enough by managers.

    I have also been in companies where we’ve sunk money into bringing outside trainers in to hold classes, and employees just do not sign up or sign up and drop out last minute, wasting a lot of money. When we’ve asked managers to encourage their employees to sign up, they still do not sign up even when their managers gave them the ok. They choose the the work because it may mean they have to work late to catch up from the 4-8 hours they spend in class. Some of this is a cultural issue where the company needs to not call someone to task if they choose to attend a class nor overloading their schedules to the point where this is the constant dilemma, but part of this is also an employee willing to prioritize themselves and their own development and assume the time will be well-spent.

  49. Anoner

    I think this is similar to how it goes with school. All my life, I’ve had school experiences that were very much “teach yourself and then we’ll test you on how well you taught yourself”. I learned not to ask for help because you would not get any help and might get mocked for not knowing it. I did eventually learn to ask for help, but still didn’t get much help. Had a couple jobs where they expected you to know everything already.

    Then I started LastJob and mentioned I didn’t know something and a coworker said “that’s okay, we’ll train you”. I nearly fell out of my chair. I’m very lucky now that I can attend trainings, the problem are there just aren’t that many for my current thing, as people mentioned above, I have theoretical, but I need practical, “how other people have dealt with this common problem”, etc.

  50. Paul Kemner

    Often these companies demand experience with proprietary software that an individual isn’t going learn on their own, or in a school. It’s not a spreadsheet like Excel, or even an expensive utility like Adobe Photoshop. They want experience with Oracle CRM/Peoplesoft or SAP ERP. You can’t learn or get experience with those on your own. Since a company won’t train anyone, their only option is to hire a worker away from another company using it. But that company isn’t training either.

  51. Back in the day

    and I mean BACK in the day – before my time – more like my parent’s generation – employers trained their incoming staff who didn’t have the necessary skills to do the job. Those workers could advance and move around the company because employers provided additional training. That bred loyalty – which companies no longer care about. That was a different economy then.

    Many employees then had no college degrees – even engineers. Prospective employees now need multiple master’s degrees to get an entry level job (okay some exaggeration but not far from the truth)

  52. Pennalynn Lott

    I recently quit working with a startup 3D imaging company because they wanted me to find professional photographers and graphic artists who could “hit the ground running” (meaning they already had an intimate knowledge of 3D technologies and applications), who had great people skills, who could work closely with clients that weren’t sure what they wanted, who could work a booth at a convention for three 14-hour days on their feet without complaint (and sleep 5-6 people to a hotel room to save money), and who would do all of this for less than $20K per year. You gotta be freakin’ joking. Good luck with that.

  53. Nellie

    I think it’s interesting that the article talks about workers not having time to “attend trainings,” because while I’m sure a lot of professional education and development happens that way, in my experience the things people are least-equipped to do on the job are things that their bosses should just be explaining or demonstrating to them.

  54. Justin

    This is an old article but I wanted to say my piece:

    It’s not even just about formal training on specific skills, a lot of employers won’t even do much to make sure you understand how things are done at their shop. They give you a computer and a login and nothing else and then you get reamed later for not knowing some procedure or system, or you flounder through a few projects and look like an ass before you really get your footing. Even a day or two of explaining tasks and procedures and shadowing someone would make a huge difference.

    Even if you could buy a robot to do a job, you would have to plug it in and set it up and program it or whatever, and many employers won’t even do that. Instead they blame the robot for not working.

  55. Roxalla

    Everyone’s “previous experience” starts somewhere. Why do employers no longer offer training? It makes no sense. There are perfectly capable people who are fast learners going jobless because shiftless companies lack the patience, willingness ans character to simply train a person. Bosses are demons in disguise who think employees are nothing more than expendable indentured servants who deserve to be treated like crap and left to grovel to keep their job even when they are a dependable, focused, loyal, responsible, respectful hard-worker. Now it’s too beneath them to train someone? Get a clue? Unless it’s Law, Surgery or Rocket Science, all companies should offer on-the-job training. Everyone can’t afford College or Primary school. Everyone can’t afford to be in debt to the government either. Something’s gotta change and it begins with CORPORATE AMERICA.

  56. Ned Flanders

    I’ve recently been out of work and am fixing that most employers are intimidated when interviewing someone more qualified and with more experience than themselves.. Employers don’t really want to hire employees who can actually lead and organize a company as if it were a well oilled machine.. It was actually taught in managerial leadership, that unhappy employees work harder to make time pass quicker and simply receive a check.. However my experience is the opposite.. Happy employees work harder as they are loyal and respect leadership.. Companies loose focus when only the bottom line is the main focus.. Your company is nothing if you loose your top performers.. I worked at a hospital & it is being run like a McDonals.. The results are PTs are discharged on Fridays & back in th ER the following Tuesday.. What makes it worse is no one else is embarrassed by that fact.. At least at that facility..

  57. Zak

    I went to college to be a HVAC/R (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) technitian for 2 years. I recieved my associates and went job hunting. I got a job 2 days after I graduate and I thought it was perfect. When I was getting an interview, the boss told me, we will train you and then you will go out and do your own work, so I though it was going to be the perfect job for me. When I started working I went out and helped the senior technitian of the buisness. A couple days in the boss says, ok we will train you for the remaining days of this week the you will be put out to do you own work, which was both shocking and a little scarry for me. I was not trained properly through out that week because one simple reason, the senior technitian “did not have the time” to train me because the management over works the employees with unrealistic time frames and inhuman hours. Every week I would run into something new that I had to figure out, which takes time and mistakes for you to actually grasp what your doing, unless you a freaking genius with photographic memory (which these companies expect on day one), and every time I would get backlash from my boss about him losing money because I’m learning and he did not give me the time to train me in everything I needed to know before I started. College just gets you ENTRY LEVEL knowledge of the trade, not making you a master mechanic, it’s impossible at any school. So I struggled though it. Making more mistakes and learning alot about the trade. I felt secure after about 8 months in the buisness because I was beginning to grasp what was going on. One day the boss sent me to a job. A walk in cooler was down and they wanted me to fix it. Because I haven’t had good experience working with what I was doing, I messed up and another technician had to fix my mistake. A couple days later the boss told me to not come in until noon which I though was wierd. I went in and talked with the boss and he said he was letting me go. I did not understand this, I was working so hard and showing them that I work hard and this is what they do? Expect me to be able to do the work a master technician who has been working there for 30 years (longer than I’ve even excisted) could do? This is the thing owners don’t understand. YOU CAN’T EXPECT A 20 YEAR OLD KID FROM COLLEGE TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT A TRADE IN 2 WEEKS OF TRAINING. College is just a place to get a fraction of what is needed in the field. If you want to make a very successful buisness, get young people who are willing to bust their ass like I did and want to learn, and invest in them so you can create the perfect employee for you, this will make you wayyyyyy more money in the long run because you have someone who can do the work you trained them to do, your way. I just don’t understand how this isn’t common sense. Your fucking yourself over because if you don’t want to train anyone, your buisness will not survive because the master technicians you have will retire eventually and you will have no master technicians, just a bunch of in experienced kids who don’t know what they are doing.

  58. Shanon

    I don’t understand why everyone is so scared to train anymore. Do they not see a plus side to training an employee like for example: – Less hourly/salary pay in exchange for training
    – More trained people for the future after all baby boomers are slowly retiring
    – You can train them the way you want them to be trained and not the way someone else had trained them

    Even with experienced people the training still needs to go on for them as things are changing. Not much is done the same way in the 60’s & 70’s as it is now the world is evolving more and more in technology and the way things are done is much different from the past as it is now. Training should always be an ongoing thing for new inexperienced people as is for the experienced ones. What the experienced ones are going to be facing is a shortage of experienced people and that shortage compiles into more of a workload for less pay for those experienced people after all someone has to take up that slack. That goes for all jobs.

  59. Shanon

    In some ways I wonder if school is a waste of time beyond grade 8 when kids should be getting trained for their careers instead of wasting 4 years on useless stuff that they don’t need beyond Math, English, Science, and perhaps Social the core 4 everything else is useless and I even think Social maybe useless as well. If they got rid of most of the crap they then could offer actual work relating stuff into whatever field of the kids choosing and get a head start on it by 4 years.

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