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"Why Good (EdTech) People Can't Get Jobs"
November 29, 2012 - 9:00pm

Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It by Peter Cappelli

128 Pages - $5.38 for Kindle version
Published in June, 2012.

According to the 2012 Campus Computing Project  the three top IT institutional priorities in 2012 are:

1. Assisting Faculty Integrate IT into Instruction - 74%.
2. Providing Adequate User Support - 70%.
3. Hiring/ Retaining Qualified IT Staff -69%.

Why Good People Can't Get Jobs is therefore a timely book for academic IT leadership.

If you have led or participated in a search lately you know how difficult, time demanding, and stressful the process can be. We all complain about the challenge of finding the "right" person for our open positions. Someone who combines deep expertise with strong experience and high social intelligence.   We want leaders and innovators, independent thinkers and team players. People that are fluent in technology and learning, able to move seamlessly across the various academic cultures and able to work as easily with faculty as system administrators.

These searches don't seem to be getting any easier. We all worry that the best people are not applying for our open positions.   

Reading Cappelli's Why Good People Can't Get Jobs just might change your perspective on the edtech search process. 

Cappelli makes a strong argument that the problem is not with the job seekers but with the people doing the hiring. Salaries not kept up with the growing demands that we have for our new employees. Companies have basically walked away from providing on-the-job training and high levels of professional development, figuring that such benefits are both expensive and risky if the employee leaves.  

New hires are expected to have a range of skills on day one, where previously the expectation was that skills would be acquired over time. The result is often that positions remain unfilled during the search for the "perfect" candidate. This means that the people working in the company, division or unit need to cover the work of the unfilled position. Shrinking head counts lead to higher levels of productivity (less people doing the same or more work), but also staff stress and burnout.   

Cappelli does not have many positive things to say about corporate human resource departments. While he recognizes that HR is staffed by dedicated and caring professionals, he laments that HR departments have been stripped down and cutback to a size that makes it difficult for them to work proactively on both hiring and retention. HR is given little mandate to quantify the revenues lost by not filling a position, and will often be blamed if a hire does not work out.  Less money spent on staff means a better looking bottom line, even if inadequate staffing means that companies (or universities) will not be able to grow or innovate.

Cappelli's focus is on corporate America, but I found plenty of wisdom that we can take back to campus. We don't have the problem of overcoming computer screening errors and biases for resumes, as we (at least in my experience) don't rely on this technology to screen applicants (do you?).   

But we have also raised the bar of requiring immediate productivity and a huge range of skills and aptitudes amongst our new hires. How many early career or career switching people in educational technology do we bring in, and then commit to investing resources in long-term training? Do we spend too much time looking for the "perfect candidate" rather than devote some of these resources towards training, mentoring and professional development?

I highly recommend Why Good People Can't Get Jobs (it is a quick read) for anyone on campus involved in hiring. 

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