RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's Wendy Kaufman examines the mismatched between the skills employers need and the skills job seekers have to offer.
WENDY KAUFMAN: In this economy, few professions have been hit harder than architects. In Seattle alone, thousands of them are out of work. Gary Barber, who's been a practicing architect for 30 years, is one of them.
GARY BARBER: I know everything that there is to know about building a building, from your garage in your backyard to a high-rise in downtown Seattle. I've got that experience base, that skill set. And anything that's relating to that environment, I love to do.
KAUFMAN: But there's not much demand for new houses or commercial buildings, and that means not much demand for architects or crane operators or escrow officers. There are fewer jobs in other parts of the economy too - think travel agents, newspaper reporters and mid level managers. As Ed Bealieu, president of West Coast Careers, a recruiting and staffing company puts it, the skills job applicants have often don't match what employers are looking for.
ED BEALIEU: So now you've got a segment of the population that doesn't have a chair to sit in, if you will.
KAUFMAN: Many of the chairs now being filled are in highly technical and specialized fields. And it's not that easy to go from being say, an architect, to a software engineer or from an escrow officer to an airplane mechanic.
GLENN COOK: My name is Glenn Cook, I'm the director of staffing for Boeing. And we're standing overlooking Boeing Field which is our delivery center for the 737, and we are in the process of ramping up production.
KAUFMAN: That means lots of new jobs for machinists, and engineers. Cook says Boeing added more than 5,000 jobs this year, and expects to add twice that many next year.
COOK: What we really want to do is bring in folks that have experience so they can hit the ground running and really help us immediately.
KAUFMAN: You hear that refrain a lot from employers. And Peter Capelli, a management expert at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, says you didn't used to.
PETER CAPELLI: You know, a generation ago you'd never expect that somebody could come into a reasonably skilled sophisticated position in your organization and immediately make a contribution. That's a brand new demand.
KAUFMAN: Career Coach Matt Youngquist has seen highly talented individuals get stymied, because although they had 20 years of experience and fabulous references, they didn't have a college degree.
MATT YOUNGQUIST: I had a woman, one of the sharpest H.R. minds I've ever me - and I know a lot of them - that lack of a degree, that little checkbox blocked her from a year's worth or jobs that she was trying to get, because companies just wouldn't compromise; or, because she couldn't get to the person that could actually evaluate her skills properly.
KAUFMAN: In fact companies may decide to leave jobs unfilled if they can't find exactly what they are looking for. But while companies have become a lot pickier, the unemployed sometimes sabotage themselves. Youngquist, the CEO of Career Horizons, says some job hunters are living in the past, turning down jobs because they think they're worth more than employers are willing to pay.
YOUNGQUIST: I think a lot of the people really having trouble right now you know, are thinking what they made this last five - 10 years is normal, when in fact, it might have been inflated. And no one wants to take a pay cut. But yes, some people have to be more adaptable.
KAUFMAN: Wendy Kaufman, NPR News, Seattle.
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MONTAGNE: Tomorrow our series continues with a look at companies that are hiring, but don't want to hire the long-term unemployed.
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MONTAGNE: And you're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.