From Asia to Austin, Texas, labor shortages are causing major stress for employers worldwide. Reflected in delays and service outages, these deficits are not likely to get better soon; the school systems that are supposed to be preparing students are almost universally failing.
Scarcity of lifeguards in throughout the United States
Lifeguard shortages made front-page news in Boston, beginning in June of this year. In Austin, Texas, the shortage delayed the opening of seasonal pools. Maine resorted to rotating lifeguards to keep its beaches covered, and there is no doubt that this shortage resulted in swimming areas being less safe.
Shortage of cable television technicians
Throughout the U.S., a shortage of cable television technicians means it takes longer to get cable service. Known as “installation technicians,” the workers are responsible for connecting and maintaining a sprawling network of cable, microwave relays, as well as hooking up residential users. For years, the U.S. has suffered from a shortage of people with these skills.
Air traffic controller strikes in France
Overworked air traffic controllers in France continue to cause critical disruptions when they go on strike because of overwork and stress. More specifically, the unions argue that the rate of replacement of staff has fallen from 80 percent to 65, and that outdated equipment is affecting their ability to meet performance targets. In 2015, an article in Aviation Week reported that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had failed to meet its hiring goals for air traffic controllers for five years in a row.
HR managers struggling with international recruitment of people with language skills
According to a new study by CEMS, a global alliance in management education, multinational companies and non-governmental organizations, employees who are able to work abroad are in short supply. That same study found that 87 percent of HR managers believe foreign language skills are important for employability, while the key challenges faced by their employees working abroad include understanding a new culture (48 percent), culture shock (25 percent) and language or communication issues (16 percent).
Other skills shortages of technicians mean delayed services
Plumbers, electricians, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians, body shop technicians, professional sales people and healthcare professionals are all in short supply, as are chemical and physical engineers. Having encouraged young people to study the “STEM” – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – subjects, some of these areas are improving, just not nearly fast enough.
Short, midterm, and long-term futures
In the short-term, employers need to recognize the liability these shortages represent and dedicate human and financial resources to creating pipelines and succession plans, particularly for critical positions. This initiative begins with identifying high school and college students who have potential, and then mentoring and rewarding them, as well as providing paid internships when the students are on breaks. Also, expect to see more contractors jumping in to help companies for a price, of course. For large companies, this pipeline-building will be a massive project.
In the mid-term, the transition to augmented human beings will be interesting to watch. Young people may be attracted to these professions for the opportunities to experience being “super-human.”
In the very long-term, we will have robots to perform many of the technical tasks, alleviating these shortages and creating other problems for employers to solve.