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Who's looking to hire? Top 10 hard-to-fill jobs hold surprising lessons.

A recent study suggests that most of the hardest-to-fill jobs in the US do not require college degrees. It points to the need for greater vocational training to cut unemployment.

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President Obama and Congress have acknowledged the problem. Though his demand in January's State of the Union address that colleges and universities bring tuition under control got the thunderous applause, Mr. Obama also prioritized vocational training in his proposed $69.8 billion education budget.

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In June, the House education committee passed the Workforce Investment Improvement Act, which will create a fund for local and state officials to address specific needs in their communities and areas – including perhaps vocational training aimed at local employer needs. 

“The bill gives states and local entities the flexibility to address their unique workforce needs,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R) of North Carolina, chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. 

The bill has not been scheduled for a vote on the House floor.

In a companion paper to the talent survey, ManpowerGroup makes a number of suggestions to companies on how to deal with shortages, such as providing additional training, filling the positions with people who can develop the necessary skills – in other words, who can grow into the position – and focusing more recruitment efforts and energy on the hardest-to-fill positions. 

"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,” said Jeffrey Joerres, ManpowerGroup’s chairman and CEO. “We can no longer afford to have business and education working in silos if we want US communities to compete economically in the human age."

What companies want and what an employee needs, in terms of skill acquisition, are different, but complimentary, says Professor Sly. 

“The onus on workers is to develop skills that are useful to employers generally,” he says. “The burden on the company is to develop skills specific to their own needs and operations.”

Companies will invest five or six years of training in an employee before the employee is fine-tuned to the needs of that business. When the economic picture is difficult, businesses are less willing to take the risk of spending that money only to see the employee they trained move up and out of the company. 

Vocational training allows workers to meet companies halfway. 

“One huge advantage of vocational skills or programs is that they’re relatively quick," Sly says. "Retooling yourself at a university is an investment of, at a minimum, four years. A vocational program takes two, or even one year."


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