Conventional wisdom holds that the American work force is in decline. Employers complain that new entrants are undersize in skills but oversize in sense of entitlement. Charles Richardson, the founder of New Jersey-based Fox Industries, which makes industrial products used in advanced coatings, speaks for a lot of owners. “The skills gap is huge,” he told me. By siting factories abroad, he said, “I get better-educated people with a better attitude.”
Conventional wisdom begs to be challenged, though, and that’s what writer Cait Murphy does in her feature “Where Have All the Workers Gone?”. Murphy finds little evidence for the supposedly yawning gap between the skills employers want and the skills workers have. What she finds instead are entrepreneurs taking their fate into their own hands, recruiting for character and training for skill. One of them is Carey Smith of Big Ass Fans, a Kentucky industrial-fan manufacturer and seven-time (!) Inc. 5000 honoree that since 2009 has more than tripled head count (and raised sales-per-employee by 28 percent) via such old-school methods as paying well and becoming known as a good place to work. Read the story; it will make you question who really owns the skills gap.
Speaking of hiring, I’m pleased to announce that Inc. has a new editor. James Ledbetter is a great thinker and seasoned leader who will share with me the responsibility of performing journalism in service to entrepreneurs, Inc.’s mission since 1979. Skills gap? Not here.
One final note: Thirty-five years ago this month, the first issue of Inc. hit newsstands. It was a new kind of publication, one that embraced entrepreneurs as both heroes and readers. So don’t be surprised if 35 pops up a few times this year (starting with this month’s cover story). After all this time, we’re still proud to serve the hardest-working, most indispensable people in free enterprise.