Rebuilding & Refilling Americas Talent Pipeline
In this month’s Gordon Report. Ed Gordon and Ira S Wolfe expose the historical and monumental challenge facing today’s employers too few qualified and skilled workers to fill open jobs. Both future of work experts discuss how businesses and communities must collaborate to “fix” the employment meltdown the U.S. faces if left unchecked.
Sometimes It Is Painful to be Right (1:42)
As far back as 1999, both Wolfe and Gordon predicted the current labor market crisis. Wolfe called it “The Perfect Labor Storm” and Gordon described “Employment Meltdown.” Wolfe noted, “Sometimes it is painful to be right.” While the pandemic may not have caused the labor shortages, it definitely accelerated the journey that got us here.
From Main St to Wall St, it seems there is a labor shortage everywhere. Retail, restaurants, entertainment and even amusement parks have had to cut back on hours and services. For an amusement park which has just a few months to open, these few months are their ‘bread and butter.” To close down a few days each week or not open refreshment stands and rides due to a lack of workers is devastating. But Gordon and Wolfe are not surprised. They saw it coming but not enough people were listening.
There is no “People Farm” (4:55)
Both Wolfe and Gordon receive calls daily from clients and the media about what employers can do to fill open jobs faster. It’s like they believe there is a conspiracy to shield workers from employers. There is a “‘people farm’ waiting to be harvested. There are not people trees we can shake and skilled workers will drop out.(Wolfe 4:55)”
Unemployment Benefits and Immigration (5:40)
Some people argue that many eligible workers are just sitting at home. To some degree this is true. The U.S. labor participation rate has been falling for 20+ years, most significantly for men. They might not be sitting at home but they definitely aren’t working, or even care to work. Others point fingers at pandemic-stimulus unemployment benefits. That might be partly true for some workers. But many states that have discontinued the benefit still have significant numbers of unfilled jobs. Indeed recently reported that job searches aren’t increasing with a proportionate number of eligible workers either. Unemployment benefits, for now, are just more noise and a deflection away from focusing on the real problem at hand – too few skilled workers.
Another debunked myth is immigration was taking jobs from hard-working, able-bodied Americans. If this was true, the unemployment rate would be at a record low and employers wouldn’t be crying foul. Besides, if there was such a thing as a “people farm,” the skilled worker crops would already have been picked clean.
ReTAINs are the Answer (9:53)
ReTAINs are Regional Talent Innovation Networks (9:53). These are collaborative groups that develop a plan to pool their community and business resources to rebuild and refill the talent pipeline. They include collaborations between businesses, community colleges or skill training centers, and parents. They try to reach parents and kids as young as elementary skills and create pathways to introduce them to jobs of the future. Curriculum, apprenticeships, and internships offer opportunities to get the next generation skilled and ready to work when they graduate from high school, trade schools, and colleges. ReTAINs focus on two questions:
1)How to fill vacant jobs as fast as you can right now…so you don’t lose money?
2) Who is going to fill that job 5-10 years from now in your community? (Gordon 10:07)
Gordon points to past successes ReTAINs all over the country. Some are big and some are small. Despite the need, some are struggling. They don’t get enough support, but that needs to change.. The sooner people get involved in their community, the faster they will see a turnaround in their local economy.
Wolfe and Gordon are trying to help organizations rebuild their current workforce and prevent them from becoming obsolete. ReTAINS can have an impact on both the local, regional and national economies. If we can get an additional 30 million workers reskilled and upskilled, everyone benefits. It will take commitment, resources, and time. But the good news is that have of these jobs don’t require a 4-year degree.
What’s Going On In Your Community (17:59)
Gordon says. “These are things that are going on in your community (17:59).” 100 years ago, when we moved from farms to cities. People learned new skills. Today we need to do it again. We need a better-educated workforce. We have shortages of physicians, nurses, physical therapists, truck drivers, teachers, and even salesmen.
This is a War. We Have Known About It, and We Have Put It Off (22:00)
Gordon says, “this is a war. We have known about it, and we have put it off. (22:00) Fortunately, it is never too late to learn. For people of any age, continuous learning is a must. Advanced digital skills are going to apply to every job, from food servers and housekeepers. Many jobs if not automated will use automation, which requires knowledge and comfort using and maintaining software and technology.
People will still need to be managed, but differently. Managing a digitally savvy workforce requires a different set of skills than managing a blue-collar crew.
The bottom line is that the way we filled our talent pipeline in the past isn’t working. We have to unlearn some of our old behaviors, and even that is a new skill in short supply.