AT&T CEO says hard to find skilled U.S. workers

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The head of the top U.S. phone company AT&T Inc (T.N) said on Wednesday it was having trouble finding enough skilled workers to fill all the 5,000 customer service jobs it promised to return to the United States from India.

"We're having trouble finding the numbers that we need with the skills that are required to do these jobs," AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told a business group in San Antonio, where the company's headquarters is located.

So far, only around 1,400 jobs have been returned to the United States of 5,000, a target it set in 2006, the company said, adding that it maintains the target.

Stephenson said he is especially distressed that in some U.S. communities and among certain groups, the high school dropout rate is as high as 50 percent.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducation* Economics, PoliticsEconomy

12 Comments
Posted March 28, 2008 at 4:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse wrote:

He complains about the lack of “skilled workers”, but I wonder if he’s not bemoaning the lack of “skilled workers willing to work for squat”.  I think that’s where the disconnect is in the job market.  Plus, who aspires to make a career in a call center?

March 28, 7:16 am | [comment link]
2. Saint Dumb Ox wrote:

St. Jimbob, you have nailed it.

There is no shortage of skilled workers, just a shortage of people who are smart enough to be friendly and helpful and dumb enough to think that a call center job has any security or future.  If they billed a call center job like a McDonald’s job they might have more success.

My main guess is that AT&T;is having a hard time finding people with Midwestern accents that meet the above criteria.

March 28, 9:18 am | [comment link]
3. Cole wrote:

The economy is the economy.  Too many children from even middle income families feel they are entitled to the same standard of living as their parents.  All that is required is to be socially promoted from high school.  It doesn’t work that way in a global economy.  If you greatly elevated the relative incomes for these kind of jobs, it would also cause a disincentive to achieve a higher education or vocational training.  The same issue could apply to universal health care.  Wealth and living standard is only increased by greater productivity.

March 28, 10:43 am | [comment link]
4. Chris wrote:

Yes, Stephenson wants to pay his employees little but wants everyone else to have a whole pile of cash to spend on AT&T;.  Is he familiar with the concept of shared sacrifice?  Evidently not…..

March 28, 11:05 am | [comment link]
5. Harvey wrote:

Way back when (more than six decades ago) HIGH schools Junior and Senior (grades 7-12) taught a skills corriculumn that included woodwork, electrical work, metal work and foundry (print shop too).
Where did these courses go?? (Don’t forget Mathematcs)

March 28, 11:15 am | [comment link]
6. Clueless wrote:

Can’t teach woodwork or foundry to minors because if they burn their fingers the parents will sue.  These skills need to be learned in community college for paid tuition once the kid is 18.  The teachers who used to teach it now teach diversity training and how to put bananas on condoms.

Also, the parents got the idea that everybody ought to go to college, and anybody who did not was a loser.  In point of fact a plumber will make more over a career than an internal medicine physician or pediatrician, once you factor in educational and opportunity costs, and will have a MUCH more enviable lifestyle.  A good industrial welder will make WAAY more than any liberal arts major.

March 28, 11:53 am | [comment link]
7. BCP28 wrote:

A few thoughts from a 10 year teacher…

1.  The CEO is probably lying on some level; this is a publicity stunt to support an outsourcing policy.  What happened to all of the old employees before the jobs were outsourced?  Did they found better jobs?  Is it that they won’t come back to work for so little?  Perhaps the job requirements were changed?

2.  In one of his statements, the CEO referred to students as products, suggesting the school system needed to be shut down for producing defective ones.  No one denies that schools must produce competitive human beings.  They are human beings, however, not products.  And I would like to suggest that in neighborhoods where the drop-out rate is that high, the problem is not the young, underpaid teacher a year out of college struggling against wide-spead social collapse.

3.  The idea, as someone else said, is shared sacrifice.  AT&T;is a company, not a charity.  At the same time, thinking of its communities might not be bad business.

Randall

3.  I have a

March 28, 12:52 pm | [comment link]
8. Clueless wrote:

I don’t think the young underpaid teacher a year out of college is the problem.  The problem is that there is a mismatch between what the schools are willing to offer, and what employers and students need.  However since the schools have a monopoly on tax supported education monies they have no incentive to deliver a “competitive product”.

A system that would be superior is the following:

1.  Have the current system with the following caveats:

2.  Have a basic skills examination that allows a kid to leave school as long as they can read, write, and do math at the 8 grade reading, prealgebra level.  With student and parental consent such children should be allowed to use the high school monies that would otherwise be spent on them, on community college, where they can learn a high paying trade.  (Those who wish to go on to college get to stay in school).  If the kids change their mind after a year of community college, they can work toward their GED using state monies, up to a total of 12 years of subsidized education.  Thus they could still go to college if they change their minds.

3.  If the students can place out of 12 grade on a more complex test, let them use their high school money at a local state college taking college courses.  Many colleges let high school students take college courses junior and senior year anyway, and this should be encouraged.

4.  If kids trapped in inner city schools could see a way clear to actually getting a decent paying job, and could leave and do an apprenticeship in a trade I think they would consider this far superior to dropping out.  Right now that 50% of US high school students who disappear between 9th grade and 12 grade realize that they are wasting time that could at least be spent earning money at burger king or playing video games sitting in class in order to get a high school diploma that will qualify them only for jobs at a “call center” like the above.

March 28, 1:09 pm | [comment link]
9. BCP28 wrote:

Clueless:

The problem isn’t the schools.  (That does not mean there is not room for improvement.  A lot in most urban systems burdened by administrators…)  The problem is that the social system in these communities is utterly broken.  This is not a problem for professional educators.  It is a problem for missionaries.

A kid in the inner city is as likely to be “trapped” in an abusive/neglective home situation as he is a bad school.  No apprentice system, voucher system, or college placement program is going to change that.  Parents who don’t care-and there are a lot of them-won’t help their kid figure out what to do.

Randall

March 28, 1:31 pm | [comment link]
10. BCP28 wrote:

I’m sorry if I seem so biased, but please understand where I am coming from My own school has -very- high test scores and is ranked as one of the nation’s best by US News and World Report.  I also know how meaningless that truly is.  We are a magnet-we get to choose who we teach to a limited extent, and it makes a huge difference.  The US News rankings are based entirely on Advanced Placement scores, and in order to assist that, we have utterly eviscerated our arts programs.  Well-rounded kids don’t matter in the present political environment.  And what absolutely disgusts me about this AT&T;guy is that his kids have every advantage-and he would NEVER tolerate them being referred to as inanimate objects-yet he does that freely with everyone else without missing a beat.  How arrogant.

I understand those who are frustrated that the system does not work better.  But so-called “free market” solutions are generally pie-in-the-sky and ignore the realities of kids’ lives.  If a parent does not care, nothing will help.  This is where the church is sorely needed-to rebuild entire communities-and we are doing a bad job of it.  An educator cannot facilitate learning-teach-whatever you want to call it if the kid is hungry, abused, or mentally unstable because he saw a relative shot at the age of 5.

I am not making excuses.  I am saying the school system is good at transmitting information when kids are ready to recieve it.  We can only do so much in the 7 1/2 hours kids are in our buidings-we already feed them two meals in many cases and often provide much needed mentors and role models.  But we are human beings with our own lives, which is why one really needs missionaries in many of these communities, in addition to the regular schools.  A little money from AT&T;for scholarships would help, too…

Randall

March 28, 1:48 pm | [comment link]
11. Marion R. wrote:

“We’re able to do new product engineering in Bangalore as easily as we’re able to do it in Austin, Texas,” he said, referring to the Indian city where many international companies have “outsourced” technical and customer support workers.

“I know you don’t like hearing that, but that’s the way it is,” he said.

Yet somehow you can never seem to outsource a CEO job to New Dehli. Funny how that works out.

March 28, 5:14 pm | [comment link]
12. Harvey wrote:

Marion, Lady you have hit the New Dehli spike right on the top.  Why do we even have CEO’s here in the USA if all the work is done in India??  Let’s send the CEO’s to India and let them work at subsalaries!!

March 28, 10:21 pm | [comment link]
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