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Interview: Peter Cappelli on the secret of employment

Peter Cappelli is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources and author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It.

Read “If There’s a Gap, Blame It on the Employer,” Peter Cappelli in The New York Times, August 3, 2012.

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      Certifiably employable
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  • Bill Fiala

    Please excuse me if I’m wrong, but in your piece tonight something stood out that was NOT followed up on. The 7000 shipyard workers laid off VS. the NEED for Experienced shipyard workers in Alabama….

    Why didn’t the 7000 head to Alabama?

    I think that, on the cover, what Alabama’s doing to EMPLOY it’s unemployed is very admirable, BUT, you never followed up on those 7000 unemployed from Philly vs. the employment demands of the shipyard in Alabama vs. the 66% dropout rate from their program from the shipyard in question….


  • Anonymous

    Mr. Cappelli makes a number of very good factually based points. However, I qualitatively dispute the notion that we “pushed” kids into 4 year colleges as a means of gaining education and skills that may or may not be transferable into the workplace (I agree with him that they do not, the skills and education necessary are primarily gained from job experience). I believe one of the main reasons people have moved en-masse towards colleges is that they saw (and felt) the ever decreasing wages, benefits, and very positions once available in the trades and industry. And, while there may be a need for shipyard workers, welders, and the like, I encourage Mr. Cappelli to go out and find these positions that pay a living wage, have decent benefits, and (for that matter) exist in any real numbers. Yes, we have some jobs, but few of these workers are making enough to get ahead. In general, while we have created 5.4 million or so jobs since 2007′s crash, the average hourly wage of these is just over $13/hr. People went to college even if they were borderline students because they were encouraged to push themselves in any area (education) where they could perhaps capture that last thread-like vestige of the American Dream – job security with a decent income. That we have millions of people dependent upon government training programs (along with many others) that don’t work (the one highlighted has a 2/3 failure rate=no job placement) speaks volumes about out unwillingness to face the real problem, as well as not find new solutions. The Alabama program to nothing more than another giveaway.

    You cant run a 1st world economy on 3rd world wages. People who make $20,000 a year will survive, but that is the society (and economy) we will have as a result, with all the associated despair, poor health, and suffering that comes along. And all that so that large corporations can make their bottom line totals look bigger.

  • Fritz Korte

    GLARING ommission-Director of Wharton’s Center for HUMAN RESOURCES and, that is, AND veteran interviewer COMBINE. to FAIL. to MENTION. of all things the difference in WAGES between workers in New England and, wait forrrrr it, ALABAMA doing the same job. This while dicussing business COSTS. Credibility THAT lacking is typically reserved for the FOX network or MSNBC. PBS reporters may be bored with endless stories of corporate wage deflation and states mindlessly cannibalizing one another but corporations and states are NOT tired of gutting the middle class with careless and reckless disregard for the future. And any media that puts a veteran reporter face to face with a human resource expert WITHOUT so much as mentioning WAGES (You know, the ROOT of ALL the other dominos mentioned in the piece) is equally contributory to the gutting of the midle class. Be embarrassed.

  • watermelonpunch

    Yes, while I understand a few minutes of interview time only allows for the crudest of examples to describe the obvious inefficiencies in the labour market… It is important to point out the other factors involved.

    To be fair though, I’m reading Peter Capelli’s book right now, and he addresses this issue – that job insecurity is so high now that even skilled people who might find potentially good paying jobs, really don’t see it as wise to take the risk & relocate just for a job. Because if they lose it within a year or so, then they’ll be stuck in a community where they have no established network to help them finding another job… and it might mean that they left their community for nothing, plus, may have to go through the hassle and expenditures to relocate again. Etc.

  • invisible_man

    Prof. Capelli hit the nail on the head. I’m astonished that for years all these pundits, researchers, commentators, the media have been so tunnel visioned over about this. All this long-winded blather about acquiring skills is a lot of phooey and a joke. If I’ve said this once I’ve said it a thousand times. SKILLS DON’T MEAN SQUAT TO ANYBODY. You can have all kinds of skills and aptitude dripping out of your eyes and ears but if you don’t have the experience, if you don’t have the background you won’t get anywhere. You can look, plan, get educated, do this and that and follow all the A-B-C, 1-2-3 steps for “finding a job” as much as you want but when one thing doesn’t lead into another, when your only networking contacts can’t or won’t help, when all other efforts fail finding decent employment is like looking for a ghost – its like playing the lottery. The position has to find you. How many times have I heard fantastic success stories of how the person “happened into” their situation; or they had no experience at all at it.

    I’ve spent 30 years “looking for a job”. I see all the time positions I really wish I could apply to. But when I see requirement such as a masters degree plus at least 10 years proven experience in a professional setting, five solid work related references and demonstrated knowledge of the company’s proprietary methodologies/protocols and litany of geeky sounding acronyms you’re written off as a rank, thick-skulled wannabe. The longer it goes on the harder it gets. If all you hear for 30 years, over and over and over again, your whole working life is “…sorry, not enough experience” you get nowhere and IF you’re lucky you may end up on the back of a lawn mower for six months or standing all day at a cash register. This is a first hand personal account here.