Is There a Shortage of Skilled Workers?


cubicle-farm-107096-m[We’re pleased to welcome Lawrence M. Kahn of Cornell University. Dr. Kahn currently serves as co-editor of ILR Review.]

In recent years, some employers, researchers and policymakers have raised concerns about a shortage of skilled workers in the United States. In some instances, the supposed shortage takes the form of poor literacy and numeracy skills among young people making the transition from school to work. In others cases, employers have complained about an insufficient supply of technically-trained workers, while policymakers have voiced concerns about a dearth of students pursuing science, technology and mathematics (STEM) fields. Related to possible shortages at the aggregate level is the potential problem of mismatches between the skills workers have and those demanded by firms. These concerns, if valid, have important implications for macroeconomic policy as well as the long run standard of living of U.S. workers.

In the March 2015 issue of the ILR Review, we publish a Symposium consisting of three papers studying different aspects of these ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpointquestions. In papers by Peter Cappelli and by Katharine Abraham, the authors provide evidence that leads one to question whether there is indeed a shortage of skilled workers and whether there is an increasing mismatch between the supply of and the demand for skills. The third paper in our Symposium, by Werner Eichhorst, Núria Rodriguez-Planas, Ricarda Schmidl, and Klaus F. Zimmermann, addresses one of the issues posed by Cappelli: how can we better integrate young people into the labor market? It provides international evidence on policies regarding vocational education and training, which of course don’t just affect youth, but young people are disproportionately served by such policies. This Symposium provides important new evidence on skills and labor market outcomes that will be of great interest to those concerned with the sluggish labor market beginning with the Great Recession.

You can read the Symposium on Skill Shortages and Mismatches from ILR Review for free for the next 30 days. Click here to view the Table of Contents. Like what you read? Click here to sign up for e-alerts and have notifications of all the latest research from ILR Review sent directly to your inbox!

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