July 12, 2012
Technology May Ease Skills Gap, Unemployment
Around 350,000 newly unemployed people signed up for financial assistance last week in the United States, which is one reason that the jobless rate remains stuck at a relatively high 8.2 percent. Some employers say they would hire more people if they could find workers with key high-tech skills. Some experts say better communication and technology could reduce this "skills gap."
The head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Angel Gurria, says even some well-educated people are having trouble finding work around the world.
"There are unemployed graduates on the streets, while employers search in vain for people with the skills they need. There is an obvious mismatch here. And it is a paradox and a great tragedy," noted Gurria.
OECD officials say more than 44 million people are out of work in the 34 mostly wealthy nations that make up the group.
In the United States alone, there are nearly 13 million unemployed people, at the same time there are more than 3.6 million unfilled jobs here.
Experts say even at a time of high unemployment, some positions are unfilled because job applicants lack high-technology skills.
A company called Monster Worldwide is using some new technology it says can help solve that problem.
Company official Earl Rennison says computer programs called "semantic search" are able to scan vast amounts of data, including millions of resumes, to help match skilled people with vacant jobs.
Computer searches have been available for years, but he says they just matched certain key words, which Rennison says could give poor results if the word has multiple meanings.
"Someone's name may be Ford, John Ford, or they may work for the Ford Motor Company, or go to, or have attended, the Ford School of Public Policy," Rennison noted. "So being able to differentiate these multiple different senses of a word is important for a semantic engine to understand."
Rennison says semantic search is designed to pick the right match from the words and phrases around a key word. Rennison says this analysis of context helps it get the right match even if a job posting and resume use different words to express the same concept. He says better searches will yield better matches, and fill more jobs.
The head of a rival career network for matching employers with job seekers called Beyond.com says another problem is that the people who are experts at finding just the right workers, the recruitment staff, were the first ones fired during the recession.
Rich Milgram says it will take time for companies to rebuild their battered workforces, even if they have hired new recruiters.
"[The new recruiters] don't understand the business that well because they are new, they don't have a rapport with the hiring managers," Milgram explained.
He says companies that need top-notch workers need to do a good job of writing job advertisements that are accurate and understandable, while job seekers need to make it clear to hiring managers how they can contribute to the firm.
Milgram says the many employers he talks to regularly think the economy has recovered somewhat, and many firms are on the verge of rehiring people lost during the recession.