The US is projected to continue facing labor shortages for the foreseeable future. For instance, over the next decade, 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed, with only 1.4 million out of these expected to be filled - a shortfall of 2 million workers. Unemployment and labor shortages do not exclude each other. When the unemployed don't have the skills or experience to qualify for jobs, labor shortages result. (For more on this, see: “The Paradox of Worker Shortages at a Time of High National Unemployment” and "Labor Shortages Trip Up Big Home Builders".)
Shortages are greatest in the skilled trades, both globally and in the US. Skilled trades includes jobs like Carpenters, Electricians, Plumbers, Steamfitters, Pipefitters, Machinists, Industrial Machinery Mechanics, and various kinds of Technicians. One issue with the skilled trades is that many of these jobs require a considerable period of training (school, apprenticeship, on-the-job) and commitment to a relatively narrow occupational field. More and more young people are opting out of that career path (the average age of those in the skilled trades is considerably older than average: 53 percent of skilled-trade workers in the U.S. are 45 yrs or older).
A modest federal Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) would work well for people early in their careers when their wages are lower and they are still learning the basics. But even with a BIG, issues remain. It often takes years to be really good at a trade and many employers of trade workers are small to mid-size and can't afford generous pay on what is essentially a trainee. Many of whom will leave before the training is over (per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while job tenure is increasing for those 25 and over - average 5.5 years per worker - it is really low for young men (1.4 years, age 20-24). So, the problem with getting employers to hire people that need a lot of training is partly a matter of retention – making good on your investment.
The highly competitive business climate also appears to play a role in current labor shortages. Employers increasingly want workers with better skills, because it’s riskier these days to hire inexperienced workers. Says one employer: "If one of my techs doesn't know how to do a particular thing right away, the client doesn't want to hear that. Instead, they want to hear that I'll give them a discount on the tech's time. If the tech makes a mistake, I have to cover the costs for making up for it."
In this age of Yelp and other online review sites, customer loyalty is more and more a thing of the past. Many employers can't afford hiring trainees who will inevitably make mistakes, jeopardizing their customer base. Reading a couple Australian academics (the problem is global), they said specifically that pay/benefit increases haven't solved the problem, but that worker retention is best with employers' commitment to ongoing training and clear paths to career advancement. That's probably not doable for the smaller employers. So change at educational institutions will be an important part of the solution. To increase employers' willingness to hire inexperienced workers, schools will need to provide better and more comprehensive technical training programs. Training programs should start in high school and schools need to work closely with business to get the skill match right. Adopting something like Germany's system might help.
For those who drop out of these training programs, they will at least have some skills to participate in the "on-demand" economy (e.g. doing minor repairs for TaskRabbit) while also getting their modest BIG and trying to come up with a Plan B.