The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The executives gathering in Cary today to discuss the increasingly important links between work force development – i.e. education and training – and economic development should receive three handouts:

1. A new report from Manpower that highlights the difficulties American employers have in finding qualified workers for what are called “mission critical” jobs.

2. The latest “North Carolina Business Barometer” analysis from Dr. Harry Davis, the economist for the North Carolina Bankers Association. (The economy still stinks, we’re headed off a fiscal cliff as a country and Davis wonders if high unemployment is the “new normal” … read more here.)

3. Dr. Michael Walden’s latest “Economic Index” for North Carolina. (The recovery is slow, slow, slow … read more here.)

Why the Manpower report? Because an estimated 4 million jobs in this country go unfilled because employers say they can’t find qualified workers even though unemployment remains at long-term levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Earlier this month, Manpower joined an increasingly loud chorus crying for education reform and improvement in this country.

“Talent Mismatch Gap”

“Unless we narrow the talent mismatch gap, unemployment will remain stubbornly high, even as employers project greater hiring optimism,” Jeffrey Joerres, ManpowerGroup’s chairman and chief executive officer, proclaimed.

“Business leaders need to act now to establish working partnerships with the colleges, vocational institutions and high schools in the communities where they do business. Employers must proactively identify skills they need from workers into the future, and then collaborate with academic leaders in identifying the right training required. We can no longer afford to have business and education working in silos if we want U.S. communities to compete economically in the Human Age.”

Manpower, which works with individuals and companies to fill jobs worldwide, said in a report out Tuesday that some 49 percent of American firms can’t find enough workers. That percentage is down 2 points from a year ago, but if so many companies can’t find workers when so many millions are out of work there is a huge, huge disconnect somewhere.

Amazingly, 55 percent of those surveyed say they can’t find workers due to “lack of available talent” or “no applicants.”

Another 44 percent cite “lack of experience” among candidates.

But this is an interesting point in view of such high jobless rates: 54 percent of employers said workers wanted higher wages than the jobs paid. Perhaps the few workers available that meet skill set requirements know they are in demand – and know it.

The Needed Skills

Many people believe it’s education – or lack thereof or not enough people seeking education and training in areas where jobs are available.

Here are the top 10 skill sets employers say they have trouble finding:

  1. Skilled Trades
  2. Engineers
  3. IT Staff
  4. Sales Representatives
  5. Accounting & Finance Staff
  6. Drivers
  7. Mechanics
  8. Nurses
  9. Machinists/Machine Operators
  10. Teachers

Note that not all of these required a college education. But they do require motivated people willing to work and undergo training.

Technology also isn’t to blame for reshaping work force needs. Here are the top 10 skill sets needed from a 2006 Manpower survey:

  1. Sales Representatives
  2. Engineers
  3. Nurses
  4. Technicians
  5. Accountants
  6. Administrative Assistants
  7. Drivers
  8. Call Center Operators
  9. Machinists
  10. Management/Executives

The N.C. Business Leader’s Conversation on Public Education and Economic Development is taking place at Cary’s posh Umstead Hotel. 

Let’s hope that some of the “silos” cited by Manpower’s top executive will start collapsing as people working together find solutions to the jobs situation that is simply horrible.

After all, without more people working the economy is never going to recover and the economic indexes of North Carolina as well as other states, let alone that of the country, will not improve much beyond the “flat line” it resembles now.