Bureaucratic barriers exacerbate U.S. skills shortages


As growing skills shortages force many U.S. organisations to look abroad for talent, bureaucratic barriers are increasingly putting a halt to their efforts to plug vital gaps.

Half the HR professionals polled for a new survey complain that new recruits lack basic workplace competencies, forcing many organizations to look outside the United States to fill skills gaps.

Overall professionalism, analytical skills, business knowledge and written and verbal communication are the skills that new employees lack most frequently, according to the findings of the 2006 Access to Human Capital and Employment Verification Survey, carried out by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

More than a quarter of the respondents also said that they were experiencing shortages of qualified candidates in positions that require degrees in critical subjects such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

But as a survey of U.S. manufacturers last year found, in some sectors the problem is far worse. Two-thirds of manufacturers said they had problems recruiting engineers and scientists while half felt that their employees lacked problem solving skills.

Manufacturing Institute President Jerry Jasinowski said that this human capital performance gap threatened America's ability to compete in the global economy and was "emerging as our nation's most pressing business issue."

Commenting on the latest survey, Susan R. Meisinger, SPHR, president and CEO of SHRM, said that a skilled workforce was vital for America's future economic health.

"It will take a collaborative effort by all the stakeholders - workers, government, the business and academic communities, and the HR profession - to reverse the skills shortage trend," she said.

The SHRM survey also found that organizations are adopting a variety of strategies to address these skills shortages, with six out of 10 offering undergraduate educational assistance, half offering job-related skills training and four out of 10 running internship programs.

But for the three out of 10 HR professionals who said that they were keen to hire foreign nationals when they cannot find a U.S. worker with the necessary competencies or skills, bureaucratic barriers are increasingly putting a halt to their efforts to plug vital gaps.

Two-thirds of those said that they faced visas or green card processing delays when recruiting and hiring foreign nationals and four out of 10 complained of excessive processing fees.

Other complaints were levelled at U.S. immigration policies, employment-based immigration programs and employment verification - all of which HR professionals said are affecting the workplace.