U.S. Worker Productivity on Steady Decline
Economic results are in for last quarter and once again we see the U. S. worker productivity on steady decline. This marks a full year of decreased rates and an ongoing slump in productivity, the longest one we’ve seen since 1979. Since the supposed end of the recession, 7 years ago, the US has only seen production rates raise 0.4% per year well below the average of 2.2% that has been experienced since World War II.
Worker Productivity? What Does This Mean?
Work productivity is one of the most important factors in determining economic growth. Worker productivity is measured by the output of goods and services produced by the hours worked. Poor productivity has impacts on workers, companies and the overall economy. The end of the recession has brought more jobs and with that a decrease in the unemployment rate. Even so, with more workers we are still experiencing less productivity. This leads to a lack of wage increases, lower living standards and slow economic recovery.
Skills-Gap to Blame
In our last blog we discussed the lack of practical knowledge among new college graduates and younger professionals. This crucial lack of skills also directly contributes to the decreased worker productivity the United States is currently experiencing. The combination of the influx of new workers without the basic know-how of how to really get their hands dirty, the lack of mentoring and training, and the increasing amount of baby boomers retiring has created the “perfect storm” of lower productivity that won’t turn around anytime soon. When the older workers retire they take their practical skills and knowledge with them as they go. What’s left is a young workforce with little experience that’s deemed unqualified by many employers for the vacated positions. It only makes sense that production rates would fall when unqualified workers are filling highly-skilled positions.
How to Resolve the Problem
So-called “Industry Leaders” have called upon colleges and universities across the country to establish more courses to give students the opportunity to get practical teaching in their area of study. This is a poorly veiled attempt to pass along the cost of competency to the workers, who are already overburdened by the escalating cost of higher education, that was previously handled by industry.
Companies must take a leadership role in solving the problem. Recalling the programs of the past, they can take advantage of their older worker’s knowledge with mentoring programs. Properly instituted, they will provide the opportunity to pass on their skills to the new workers. The younger generation must also take initiative as well and actively pursue opportunities to increase their skills and learn how things work. It is one thing to be smart. It is totally on another level to be smart and experienced.
S&D Consulting specializes in petrochemical process control engineering and project management. Clients across the United States and as far as New Zealand and Australia rely on our consulting services for innovative process design and automation solutions. Our expert plant economic analysis has helped many refining and petrochemical operations increase plant productivity while minimizing safety issues and shutdowns.