Going to corporate college

Businesses that play a key role in education can create their own workforce

Gary Perman
Guest Columnist
There are predicted labor shortages building up right now, especially in the fields of nursing and other medical specialities, technology, engineering and financial services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a shortage of 5.3 million skilled workers is eminent by 2010 – 14 million by 2015.

The reasons are many: boomers are retiring, and outsourcing and production automation also leads to a shortage of skilled workers. The question is this: What can local companies do about the new challenges of skilled labor shortages facing us now and in the future?

There are two key answers: education and retention. We will look at education here.

Why is it that only 3 percent of young Americans want to become engineers when they go to college? What is the corporate world doing to encourage education and prepare our young people for the future?

One example of a forward thinking company creating a model for others is Fisher-Price, a world leader in toy manufacturing. Their manufacturing facility is based in the town of East Aurora, NY, a town best known for its universities, including Ivy League Cornell, in addition to eight other schools. Fisher-Price managers teach classes at Cornell in the subject areas of chemistry and plastics, mechanical engineering, manufacturing, business and so on. The company also has an internship program affiliated with the university, whereby the interns are integrated into full time positions within the company.

Fisher-Price rarely uses outside recruiters to recruit staff. The company doesn’t have a need for those services. It grows and cultivates its top talent right in its own backyard.

Imagine if more companies in Clark County followed this model? The stage is set in Clark County as we already have reputable trade schools, one of the most successful community colleges in the country and a state university on the precipice of going to the four-year model. Now we need more forward thinking companies to take advantage of those resources.

Another piece of the education puzzle comes from within. Many companies offer continuing education. This is a great benefit to employees and a tremendously positive selling point in recruitment. Those companies that invest in their employees can reap the benefits of increased product development, increased sales and increased revenues.

In an example that hit close to home, one Clark County high tech firm, in its heyday, did a wonderful job educating my sister. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree as well as an MBA, all on the company’s dime. The company then did a terrible job of retaining her after investing all that money to educate her. She is no longer there.

Education will increase an employee’s hireability. It will give an employee valuable assets and skills to provide new products, innovation and revenue for your company – or somebody else’s. Therefore, education and retention should go hand in hand – or that employee you invested so much in will be out the door.

Gary Perman is the senior partner of Perman Willits Langone, a national search and recruitment firm specializing in technical executives and managers, product design engineers, and operations and salespeople. He has a master’s degree in communications and marketing and has been a national recruiter for nine years. For interviewing tips, interviewing questions and retention information, visit www.permanwillits.com.

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