Newly revised national economic statistics reveal that while American workers are facing the toughest economic times since the great depression, to the contrary, American corporations are enjoying the best of times as corporate profits have reached an all time high. Specifically, according to a recent New York Times report, corporate profits accounted for 14 percent of the total national income in 2010. This breaks the previous peak record of 13.6 percent set in 1942. The report also notes the fact that historically, American employees have always received more than half the total national income until recently. However, in 2010 the percentage of national income devoted to wages and salaries fell to 49.9 percent and have slipped even further to 49.6 percent in the first quarter of 2011. Needless to say, this is not a positive trend for American workers.  

The Huffington Post is reporting that many of our nation’s preeminent companies have posted massive increases in profits this year and companies are continuing to hold on to record amounts of cash and other liquid assets while cutting costs by employing such initiatives as workforce layoffs and demanding more productivity from those remaining employees who have to do more with less resources.    

In a recent NBC News report by journalist Lisa Myers (see video clip below), it was revealed that Siemens Corporation has greater than 3,400 job openings in the United States. Unfortunately, the company claims that they are unable to find qualified candidates with high enough mathematical and mechanical aptitude skills required to pass their aptitude test towards filling those jobs which range from sales, production and engineering. 

Siemens is a German corporation that is a global powerhouse in electrical engineering and electronics. They provide technology and innovation in the fields of Healthcare, Energy and Industry Infrastructure. The firm operates 19 percent of its total operations in the US where they earned 27 percent of their reported 76 billion Euros in revenues in 2010 according to their July 2011 corporate status report. 

Siemens is not alone in making the argument of a skills gap. In fact, a recent Manpower survey revealed that 52 percent of American corporations are making the claim of a skills gap as the reason they are unable to fill positions. While it’s not my intention to single Siemens out, it is appropriate to use them as an example because they have put themselves in the forefront of this issue with the report.   

So I guess this means that the mystery has finally been solved. The 14 million unemployed Americans can finally stop wondering why it is that they can’t find a job. According to 52 percent of employers, they are just too stupid to be hired and/or trained. Well, before we all buy into that argument, let’s put the brakes on and ponder some additional facts and questions.  The recent overturning of more than 100 years of settled law which found that a ban on corporate campaign contributions to candidates is unconstitutional has opened the door to unlimited corporate contributions in support or opposition of political candidates.  This gives corporations more political influence than ever before. So as a critical thinker I’m asking… Are American jobs in a position to be leveraged for political gain? Could the unemployment rate become a corporate political bargaining chip? What else can explain this emerging strategy of blaming the “stupid” American workers? 

NBC News Skills Gap Report

There’s a lot wrong with this picture. It makes one wonder if it’s really about a skills gap or more about corporate political crap.

First and foremost let’s not forget that, this is the same country that during World War II hired and quickly trained mostly uneducated housewives to fill factory jobs to support our military efforts. For the Rosie the Riveter archetype, the concept of working outside of the home in itself was a new phenomenon but despite lacking mathematical and mechanical aptitude skills, they successfully did what was needed. The concept of work and learning new skills is definitely not new for African-Americans as they have worked since the day they arrived in this country.  They have a rich history of being innovators and creating processes, tools and equipment to make things operate more efficiently.

Given this, I have to wonder why it is that those 52 percent companies lack the desire to simply provide the training necessary to give workers the skills they want them to have. After all, we are currently in a modern-day war complete with the threat of terrorists who are trying to collapse our economy by any means necessary.  A strong American workforce would certainly help to strengthen our economy. As established in my previous blog post (Is Your Company Doing a Diversity Backslide?), there is a significant unemployment rate among our most highly educated brightest and best in this country. This makes the skills gap argument questionable. Simply put, there are Americans with Masters and PhD degrees who can’t find jobs. It seems logical that a PhD could at minimum fill a sales job at Siemens.
The recent initiative led by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to withhold corporate political donations until political incumbents ease gridlock in Washington is worthy of applause. Corporations such as: Whole Foods, Zip Cars, AOL and J Crew where among the first of 100 to sign on. This is no surprise as these companies are well known for their efforts in social responsibility. What’s more telling is a comparison of that list against the top ranked Fortune 100 list to identify those who have not signed on to the pledge. It's one of those things that make you go hmmm.   

Could it be that corporations have become so consumed with profits that they no longer want to spend resources on training and development? If so, isn't that in effect cheating the American worker out of professional development and growth opportunities? Grant it, individuals have an obligation to come to employers having done the work, through education and/or experience, to possess a baseline of skills. However, employers also have an obligation to develop and invest in its talent pool through training and professional development.

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