Training Day: Why the “Skills Gap” is a Myth

Rick Wartzman

In his latest post for, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman examines the “skills gap” that is supposedly leaving jobs unfilled even amid high unemployment.

Wartzman looks at the topic through the lens of a new book: Peter Cappelli’s Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs.

“Cappelli . . . declares it bunk that American workers aren’t smart enough to fill the vacancies that exist,” Wartzman notes. “He cites a number of statistics challenging the conventional wisdom that the U.S. public education system is a near-complete failure, while also questioning whether employers are actually fretting about the academic preparation of job applicants, as is widely depicted.”

“But if the so-called skills gap is largely a myth,” Wartzman adds, “why do jobs go begging in such a weak economy? Cappelli offers an intriguing answer: ‘the hiring process itself.’”

Wartzman explains that part of the trouble stems from the fact that hiring has become dominated by computer software, which makes it difficult, in Cappelli’s words, “to identify skills that are not easily associated with credentials or experience.” An even bigger issue, perhaps, is what Cappelli describes as “a distinct decline in employer investment in workers”—specifically, giving them formal training.

“To remedy this,” Wartzman writes, “Cappelli urges a revival of corporate in-house training classes and apprenticeship programs, along with the creation of more public-private training initiatives and special alliances between businesses and technical schools.”

Peter Drucker, “who believed that every worker should expect to receive proper training, would have applauded this approach,” Wartzman asserts. As Drucker wrote: “It is . . . management’s job to enable the enterprise and each of its members to grow and develop as needs and opportunities change. This means that every enterprise is a learning and teaching institution.”