Morning Coffee Aug 28 2012

The Job Training Catch-22

By Joseph Walker

San Francisco announced yesterday that tech employment in the city has tripled from 13,000 in the beginning of the year to 44,000 today. It's an almost unbelievable growth rate, even considering the city's tech boom. (UPDATE: It turns out this number was not to be believed because of a typo from a city official's press release. In fact, San Francisco added 13,000 tech jobs since the beginning of the year, bringing its total up to 44,000.)

For many who are out of work, the news doesn't solve the age-old Catch-22: You can't get the job because you don't have enough experience, but you can't the experience because you can't get the job. Today's shaky economic climate exacerbates the problem because employers are extremely discerning about when and to whom they offer full-time jobs. "Because of the pressure exerted by the lagging economy, employers are extremely choosy and slow to hire," writes Susan Adams in Forbes. "They are also reluctant to fund training programs that could prepare workers for specific jobs."

Government tries to pick up the slack through job training programs, but even those can be futile because the programs are often too general to prepare workers in the niche skill sets required by real-world employers. In better times, employers would hire workers and teach them what they needed to know on the job, but in recent years those investments have been lacking, Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, told FINS earlier this year. "Companies are not in the business of training workers," he said then. "They're in the business of making and selling products or services."

Some tech companies, Forbes' Adams reports, are trying to change that. Cisco, for example, has put money behind an education initiative that looks to train employees for networking technology jobs by coordinating training between the company and universities like San Jose State and Wichita State. College students who take Cisco-blessed classes can help ensure their way into well-paying employment, Adams writes.

What Cisco's program does not address, however, is how to re-employ the 7,800 employees it laid off over the last year or so because they were paid too much, didn't have the right skills anymore, or other reasons. H-P also is in the midst of laying off 27,000; Research In Motion is laying off 5,000; and Motorola Mobility, owned by cash-rich Google, announced this month it will rid itself of 4,000 employees.

The tech industry is a dream for employees when business is good, but as brutal as any other when profits decline.

Pulled Back In (AllThingsD)

Apple Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield, who had been scheduled to retire from the company, has decided to stay. He'll oversee development of "future products" we don't know about yet.

Bye-Bye (AllThingsD)

Kathy Savitt is abandoning Lockerz, the start-up she founded and is chief executive of, to join Yahoo as the company's chief marketing officer. Lockerz is a Seattle-based start-up that has raised $75 million in its quest to dominate e-commerce among young people

Related: Seattle Start-Up Lockerz Needs Developers

Openings (FINS)

Networking virtualization start-up PLUMgrid said it will hire 30 new employees over the next year and a half. Earlier this month, the company raised $10.7 million from investors US Venture Partners and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

Lobbying (Computerworld)

Tech firms are out in force at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week with a simple message: We're putting America to work and we need your help in supporting our industry. The will be saying the same things at the Democratic Convention next week.

Unlikely Hero (NYT)

A lone Florida inventor is challenging U.S. patent law. Motorcycle windshield innovator Mark Stadnyk says that a recent law giving patent privileges to those who file their claims first benefits big corporations to the detriment of small tinkerers like him.

Roadblock (WSJ)

The inviolate rule of Moore's law, where computer chips double in processing power every four years, is at risk of being broken because of technological barriers. The current photographic process of laying out more circuits can't keep up with how small the units have become.

Vindicated (Bloomberg)

Steve Jobs is smiling from beyond the grave after Apple won its patent lawsuit against Samsung. Jobs had a long history of expressing ire at rivals he believed ripped off his designs, from Microsoft in the 1980s to Google today. Ironic, considering the "inspiration" Apple took from Xerox early on.

Late Night (Business Insider)

Here's the memo that Marissa Mayer sent to Yahoo employees after midnight on Saturday. She told them she will make Yahoo the "absolute best place to work" by removing process, bureaucracy and jams.

Buzz Around the Office

Don't Be Obtrusive and You'll Live Forever, Apparently (MSN)

The world's oldest person turned 116 on Sunday. Her key to living a long life? "I mind my own business…and I don't eat junk food." Both habits sound rough.

List of the Day: Lessons from "Dirty Dancing"

"Dirty Dancing" is awkward in all the right ways. That doesn't mean your job needs to be. Here are a few lessons the 1980s classic can teach us.

1. Money isn't everything. Follow your heart when making career decisions.

2. Sometimes you need to take a risk and break the rules.

3. You're going to make mistakes. Own them.

(Source: The Daily Muse)



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