Jobs for all sorts

30/05/2012 § Leave a comment

The Dominion Post published a list of the ‘top 10 jobs most in demand in New Zealand in 2012’ — these are vacancies needing to be filled. The list?

  1. Engineers
  2. Sales reps
  3. Skilled trades
  4. IT staff
  5. Technicians
  6. Accounting & finance
  7. Management/executives
  8. Chefs/cooks
  9. Marketing/PR/ communications
  10. Drivers

First, it is important to think about where the list comes from. ManPower did the research, but the perception of shortages came from firms. These are businesses working in the economy trying to produce goods and services, and finding that they are held back by staff shortages. One presumes that these businesses are actually seeing unfilled demand — work they could be doing, if only they had the staff. Unfilled demand is just jargon for ‘people want stuff but can’t get it’.

What kinds of skills are in short supply? Frankly, I don’t see any real pattern to this list. There are jobs for different skills levels, amounts of experience, interests, lifestyles. The only thing missing is something for unskilled workers, but a training programme could turn an unskilled worker into a candidate several of these jobs inside a year or so.

Why do I bring this up? Two reasons:

  • An economy has all sorts of jobs for all sorts of people. Shortages show up in all sorts of places. Government programmes that focus on specific jobs and specific qualifications often miss the bigger picture. I notice this most in the push for more tertiary-educated workers, particularly in the sciences. That’s not necessarily the binding constraint. From the article:

Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand president Graham Darlow said there were no real surprises in the survey. “The biggest shortage is in technicians and not professional engineers,” he said.

  • A high-tech economy depends on technology graduates, yes. But an economy has all sorts of other necessary skills — sales, finance/accounting, and management are crucial. Even amongst tertiary graduates, only a minority can be gainfully employed in science and tech. Businesses need all these other skills, too.

This list from ManPower is a good reminder: economies are big and complex, and they generate jobs for all sorts.

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