Monday, October 31, 2011

Companies Aren't Getting Employees They Need - but We'll Get the English We Need!

The unemployment rate in the USA is 9%. That means lots of people are out there looking for work. Meanwhile, companies are complaining that they cannot find enough skilled worker. A recent Wall Street Journal article discussed this situation -- and it was full of great business English terms for us to study!

We will study part of the article, entitled "Why Companies Aren't Getting The Employees They Need" and written by Peter Cappelli. Idioms and expressions we will examine are in bold:

Even with unemployment hovering around 9%, companies are grousing that they can't find skilled workers, and filling a job can take months of hunting. Employers are quick to lay blame. Schools aren't giving kids the right kind of training. The government isn't letting in enough high-skill immigrants. The list goes on and on. But I believe that the real culprits are the employers themselves. With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time. In other words, to get a job, you have to have that job already. It's a Catch-22 situation for workers ...

To get America's job engine revving again, companies need to stop pinning so much of the blame on our nation's education system. They need to drop the idea of finding perfect candidates and look for people who could do the job with a bit of training and practice. There are plenty of ways to get workers up to speed without investing too much time and money, such as putting new employees on extended probationary periods and relying more on internal hires, who know the ropes better than outsiders would.

Now let's improve our English by studying some of the terms and expressions used above:

(to) grouse - to complain (a colorful way to say to complain, implying that there is not much basis to the complaint and the person doing the grousing would be better off closing his trap - or mouth - and doing something to improve the situation!).

(to) lay blame - to put the blame on somebody or something else. In English, we don't "give" blame, rather we "lay" it.

(to)go on and on - to continue (like this phrase because the repetition of "on" reflects the situation). We often use this phrase when talking about somebody who doesn't know when to shut his trap - or mouth. Example: "He went on and on at the meeting about what a great job he did. I thought he'd never be quiet."

ramp-up time - time needed to learn how to do a new job well.

Catch-22 situation - a frustrating situation in which one cannot do anything because the thing one needs to take action is the very thing one does not have (in this article, the person who needs a job must already have a job to get a job). Interestingly, the expression Catch 22 comes from a book with that title by the author Joseph Heller.

to pin blame on - to say it's somebody' fault. Okay, so we don't just "lay" blame as above, we also pin it on somebody else. Why so many ways to assign blame in English? Well, I guess we do a lot of blaming in our culture!

get someone up to speed - to train somebody so they know how to do their job well.

to know the ropes - to know how to get things done in a job; to know how things at a company run. This idiom comes from the world of sailing. To be a good sailor, you need to know how to work the ropes. You will also hear the related expressions: "to learn the ropes" meaning to get to know how to do a new job.

Want to keep improving your Business English? Check out Speak Business English Like an American and Speak Better Business English and Make More Money.

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