Overstock.com CEO and chairman Patrick Byrne recently sat down with the U.S. Chamber’s Free Enterprise to talk about education reform and the skills gap among other things.
Headquartered in Utah, Overstock.com was rescued from bankruptcy by Byrne, and then taken public in 2002. Now the company employs over 1,500 and had over $1 billion in sales last year.
When asked what positions are most difficult for Overstock to fill, Byrne noted that software development and technology are the hardest to find the talented workers needed. A lot of times they have to bring in talent from China and India. Apparently, the skills gap between nations surpasses the skills gap between generations. However, in Byrne’s response, he also noted that Utah’s own technological workforce, though limited in numbers, is better than others.
“Outside of that, I’ve run other companies elsewhere in the country where you can’t count on people to have basic computer literacy or even what I think of as normal high school skills of being literate, being able to read and write coherently in grammatical sentences, things like that. A high school degree doesn’t mean what it used to which is someone who’s basically competent with numbers and English and could present themselves appropriately and such. You don’t know if that’s what you’re getting anymore with someone out of high school.
“I will say, Utah is pretty exceptional. In many parts of the country, as of 10 years ago, you couldn’t assume when someone walked through the door that they knew how to use a mouse or email. Utah was quite prescient. Thirty years ago, the University of Utah and BYU set up computer science departments while much of the rest of the country seemed to think of them as vocational schools or something. They set up great computer science departments and the workforce in Utah is unbelievably computer literate. They come in from high school and they not only know how to use a mouse, they’re comfortable with spreadsheets, PowerPoint, other documents.”
To see the rest of the exclusive interview with Byrne, go here.