Category Archives: Management

The talent shortage is a myth

At last, someone else saying what I’ve been saying about the so-called talent shortage.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday published an article entitled Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need. Well worth a read.

In essence, American companies (and to a lesser but still significant extent, European ones as well) can easily fill their skilled worker vacancies if they adjust their expectations and use a little imagination.

There isn’t a shortage of skilled people.

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To change or not to change

A couple of days ago, a freelance colleague asked me if I know any freelance engineers who are currently out of work.

I don’t. (A year ago, I knew a few that were out of work. None today, in the UK at any rate.)

He replied to the same effect, then added that a recruiter friend of his had over a thousand openings for permanent-staff engineers that he simply couldn’t fill.

From a purely selfish standpoint, this is good news. I’m on the winning side of that equation. I’m as busy as a freelancer could wish to be, and I regularly have to disappoint recruiters calling in search of a solution to their particular problem.

It isn’t good news, of course. This is a big problem. The economies of the western world are struggling to grow, governments are (seemingly futilely) trying to balance their budgets, skilled and unskilled people are out of work.

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Here’s an interesting quote. In the July 2011 issue of Freelancing Matters, Julia Meyer (CEO, Ariadne Capital) says, “I don’t know a single person under 30 who wants to work for someone else.”

This does not bode well for traditional mindset companies that need to backfill their retiring baby-boomers.

I’m finding the same thing. Most of the teenagers I know are aiming for careers as freelance something-or-other. The last thing on their minds is a traditional career in accounting, law, medicine, science, engineering, etc.

Old-school HR managers have still not clued in.

To ensure the future, old traditional-culture corporations will have to take one of two options:

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How the engineer should market him/herself in the 21st century

Alessandro Alessandrini writes in his blog,

It hurts to see many skilled professionals using a “bad” CV to present themselves. It hurts employers as they do not consider into their selection process all the right candidates.

I agree.

What troubles me, though, is that what constitutes a bad (or good) CV is very subjective.

Even if you were able to get any two CV-reviewers to agree on the definition of a good CV, I’d bet money that given the same pile of CV’s to review, they’d end up with different shortlists.

Similarly, I bet that they’d come up with different shortlists on different days. One day, they’re in good moods. But another day . . . . . . might be Monday. Sheesh, will ya look at these CV’s? Give me strength . . . .

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Self-motivation: The antidote to (bad) management

I spent last Saturday at my sailing club. Not sailing, unfortunately. It was a work day. There were several tonnes of gravel to spread over the parking lot, some dead boats to send on their way to boat heaven, and various gardening tasks to do.

The muscles in my back and shoulders are still reminding me which task I spent most of my time on.

Yep. The gravel.

I tip my hat to all men everywhere who have to do that for a living. Underrated superstars, all of ’em.

Shovels. Wheelbarrows. Rakes. A diesel heavy roller for leveling the spread gravel. And for spooning gravel into the wheelbarrows, a small backhoe. Fun machines, those backhoes. Scoopies, I used to call them when I was a tot. My wife called them diggersnorts. I like that. Kids invent the greatest words for things. You can’t find ’em in any dictionary, but they still enable you to know exactly what they mean.

But I digress . . . . .

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Free the chief artist!

I was raised hearing stories of the Avro Arrow.

Although my father was a chemist and civil servant by profession, he always had a keen interest in things aeronautical. The Arrow was a source of pride for him. And shame. A brilliant and bold design. Object of beauty. Built by Canadian talent (many of them Brits who just wanted to work on an exciting project). On the verge of breaking just about every flight record then in existence. And then voluntarily scrapped by our own PM, the strong-willed Dief the Chief, who distrusted big-time industrialists. The world needed strong leaders then, as it does now, but that was one king-size stupid move.

In 1996, a film on the Arrow was produced. I remember being inspired not only by the aircraft itself, but by Crawford Gordon (looking suspiciously like Dan Ackroyd). A man equally comfortable in the boardroom, office or shop floor. Choleric, determined, creative, knowing a little bit about every aspect of the design . . . . . Such men were part of my inspiration to return to university in my mid-30’s and re-jig my career towards the world of aerospace.

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Be an insurgent

I well remember  one very interesting meeting I had several years ago, when I was working as a wing loads integrator. (I know. Whassat. It’s the shortest way to describe the fact that I was a loads analyst who spent his working life on email and in meetings with managers who needed loads. I was both a specialist, as well as a moving target for stressed-out managers to fire at.)

It was a meeting called by a programme manager and his deputy. Topic? The list of loads deliverables that his programme was demanding from the Loads department during the design phase.

At the time, the Loads department was notorious for delivering loads that were both too high and late.

It was also well known that the Loads department was chronically understaffed, and managed by old-school techies who were disconnected from programme realities.

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Despise engineers at your peril

A friend recently copied me a blog post by one Ben Sandilands. Ben is an Australian journalist who writes on a variety of topics, one of which is the Australian aerospace scene, which understandably tends to be dominated by news about Qantas.

Qantas has had a hard time recently. It’s A380’s were delivered late. On Nov 4, 2010, one of them suffered an uncontained engine failure inflight, causing significant disruption to its traffic plans. And the Boeing 787s it has ordered are already two years late, and show every sign of being at least 4 years late by the time the first one is delivered. Ben does a good job of documenting these issues.

Of the bad news in the aerospace industry recently, Qantas and Boeing have certainly had their fair share. And to some extent, I’m not really that bothered. I know this industry. People make mistakes, and the resulting bad headlines tend to be concentrated in waves. That’s normal.

But one paragraph in this recent blog post troubles me:

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