Chapter 4

“Not Enough People with the Skills We Need”

The most startling message we heard from entrepreneurs at our roundtables was that the most serious obstacle to additional hiring by new businesses is a pronounced shortage of qualified talent. With 24 million Americans either unemployed or underemployed, we did not expect to hear about a labor shortage.

“We’re in the fortunate situation where we’re experiencing a lot of growth—the company’s doubled in size in six months,” said Chad Bockius, chief executive officer of Austin, Texas-based Socialware, which provides software and social media products to financial services firms. “The biggest concern I have from a hiring perspective is getting the talent in this town . . . I have the jobs, I just don’t have the talent to fill them. We’re really all fighting over the same talent.”

Clay Banks, director of Economic Development at the Chamber of Commerce in Bartlett, Tennessee, outside Memphis agreed: “I just got off a two-week tour with 15 medical device manufacturers,” he told us. “The jobs are available, [but] the skill sets out there don’t meet the needs of these companies. . . They don’t have a miracle pool to pull talent from. The technology and vocational schools aren’t keeping up with the changes in advanced manufacturing and struggle to keep up with companies’ demand for talented workers. It’s not uncommon for companies to hire 5 to 10 in hopes of finding one qualified worker. Then they ask that employee if they know of anyone ...

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