Sunday, April 24, 2011

8 million jobs: desperately looking for professionals

There is no shortage of jobs here.  Actually, there is a desperate need for professionals right now.  To be more precise, over the next 3 years it’s estimated 8 million new jobs will be created and it’s already clear there will be no professionals available to fill them.  This is Brazil.  And I’m sure similar situation ought to be happening somewhere else as well.  There is no shortage of jobs in the world.  The caveat is they may not be where you are.

I spent the past week in Brazil, the country where I was born and left about 10 years ago seeking better professional opportunities in the United States.  To my surprise, when I arrived at this giant of Latin America in 2011, the situation was completely reversed.  The first thing that caught my attention when I passed by a newsstand was the title of this local business magazine EXAME: “Searching 8 million professionals”, in big red bold letters.

This country, home of the largest portion of remaining Rain Forrest on planet Earth, is moving at an amazing pace.  Unemployment rate is at about 5.7%, which is close to say there is no unemployment.  Anything under 5% is considered a state of absolute employment, since at that rate unemployed is mostly voluntary or result of transition to better opportunities.  Salaries are increasing fast.  Companies searching for employees are dropping some of the qualifications required and investing in preparing talents in house.  So why is this a problem?  Because there are no qualified people available in the country, and there won’t be at least over the next several years, and as a consequence, government has to decelerate growth to control inflation.

What a contrast to the United States today, where the biggest concern is exactly the sluggish economy and high unemployment.  The good news is that despite the fact the US is in a tough position today, the world as a whole is actually getting stronger.  The bad news is, for a country accustomed being the place to be for the past few generations, it’s difficult to accept the idea that many of the best opportunities are somewhere else.  For me in 2001 when I was offered a job in the US, it was only natural to leave my country, family and friends, accept all the pitfalls of doing so and move.  It was expected and praised, a symbol of success.  This is not so much how it’s perceived today in the US.  After decades of absolute world leadership, people were raised under the paradigm they already were in the best place of the world.

It’s very unlike the US will become a bad place to live.  However, slowly the world will change, and some of the tradeoffs of moving abroad for better opportunities will become less of a barrier.  For the young, it may actually sound like a great idea moving to a country with so much energy, growth opportunities and optimism compared to what they see around today, i.e. pessimism, concerns, negativity and problems.

Our role as parents, educators and professionals is to prepare them to this new reality, while we try to make things better at home.  We can’t just discount 8 million open jobs.  We must educate them to the global environment to ensure they will be competitive and will have more options.  Continue to invest in their education, including languages and international affairs will be fundamental.  In this way we will prepare them to cover gaps created in developing countries with the accelerated growth they are facing.  Education can’t follow the same pace as development, and that’s where the US is in a better position to source for the global gap of qualified professionals.  We only need to accept the world out there as a real opportunity and work towards that reality.  It doesn’t need to be treated as the only option but it must definitely be an option.

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--- Vinicius da Costa is Associate Director, Collaboration and Social Media Solutions at Kraft Foods. This text represents his personal opinion and does not represent the views of Kraft Foods, Inc.

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