Patrick Harker Opens a Door

October 20, 2020

We’ll get to the recent corroborations of cascading inequality this week, but want to emphasize something actionable and hopeful.

You actually have to watch episodes of also cascading webinars–webinarama?–because important facts get dropped as asides, or in the Q&A. In a recent Global Interdependence Center webinar on AI, Philly Fed Pres Patrick Harker noted that research from the consortium working under Markle’s Rework America found that about half of the workers in low-wage jobs could move to middle-wage jobs with some additional training, no transformations necessary.

It took a while to find the reference and a different stone landed in the pathway, one that explains a lot and gives us a way forward.

In recent years CEOs’ ongoing complaints about the difficulty of finding workers led to speculation about mismatches and “What are you paying?” but the real mismatch may be the fault of recruiting software programs.  McKinsey found in 2019 that our 70 million workers who have only high-school degrees rarely apply for many of those hard-to-fill positions, and if they do they are automatically bounced by the software looking for a college degree. McKinsey also found 32 million workers were employed in the 38 high-volume occupations most likely to serve as gateways to jobs with median salaries of $65,000 that “have proved to be accessible to those without bachelor’s degrees.”

If you think it through, that means the software was pulling resumés from an applicant pool able to demand wages CEOs were unwilling to pay for work in what were quite likely entry-level positions.

A large number of those 32 million workers have since lost their jobs, disproportionally women and minorities, a salient feature of our ongoing humanitarian crisis. If seems they need only help in the form of specific training to move into safer jobs with better pay.

And CEOs need those workers. McKinsey calculates that over the next five years they will need to fill 27 million of the kind of jobs they have found so hard to fill in the past, perhaps because of a programming error.

— Philippa Dunne & Doug Henwood

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