Is Buffalo’s Talent Ready for the New Business Frontier?

While I appreciate all the hype about new companies landing and expanding on our shores, no doubt a positive sign for our slow-healing economy, I rarely hear about the talent we need to sustain those efforts. For example, the SolarCity website boasts an upbeat work culture worthy of high-quality candidates, but as I dug deeper into their job openings, it was pretty clear that the average Tom, Dick, or Harry won’t have the skills to fill these specialized roles.

SolarCityThis high-tech manufacturer, which resembles many others my firm recruits for in the area, SolarCity requires an educated workforce with both the hard skills (education, experience, and technical knowledge) and the soft skills (work behaviors and leadership qualities) to be an impact performer. And they’ll expect candidates to come to the party prepared. Job categories, such as System Design, Software Engineering, and Construction Management all demand an enhanced knowledge and a focused skillset. Not to mention, candidates who specialize in these skilled trades must be both computer savvy and have an in-depth industry knowledge to compete – believe me, I’ve spent 30 years looking for these hidden gems. It’s not easy.

To make matters worse, many of these jobs – viewed as old-fashioned and outdated – are made up of folks who are about to retire. The average age of a highly skilled U.S. manufacturing worker is 56, as in “about to retire,” according to TLNT. Yet the demand is very much real and alive – currently, about one in six American jobs are in manufacturing. In fact, an Accenture report found that 55 percent of manufacturers say they have or will have a shortage of people with the right skills in research and development. Within my manufacturing circle, I hear from employers who are taking several months to find the talent they need to fill specialized engineering roles and other niche jobs.

Not a day goes by that one of my recruiters isn’t complaining about the lack of youth in the skilled trades sector. Today, people believe a college education is the sure path – the only path – to securing a top-paying gig. Yet, the amount of kids studying IT and science is slim at best. The manufacturing industry is starving for talent, and with millennials projected to make up 75 percent of the workforce in ten years, employers are in real trouble. For my young readers out there, it seems that attending college for the sake of earning that piece of paper will be enough to carry you through our employment world. But the reality is that employers are looking for candidates who specialize in a niche field, have the education to back it up, and who demonstrate a real career plan, not entry-levels who majored in Philosophy or History and are looking for a job – any job to get those student loans paid off.

Most of the lost souls I’ve coached have gone back to school and dumped tens of thousands of dollars into a general degree with the misguided belief that it’ll help them secure a role. Before making such a big investment, I urge you to take a step back, find out what your interests are, research in-demand fields, take a look at the demographics, and make a realistic plan to achieve those goals. If more people became aware of the “stuff” employers are really looking for and built their background accordingly, we’d have a healthier, happier, and more financially stable city. For those of you aching to find a good job, stop blaming the economy and take a good, long look at what you’ve done to meet the needs to today’s employers. I’m willing to bet they don’t match up. Courtesy of our excited media, we all know that there are jobs in Buffalo so the money is out there my friends – you just need to go after it in a strategic, self-empowered way. As true Buffalonian, I love a good comeback story and I’m rooting for our local talent to succeed.

Check out this article on The Buffalo News

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