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The Ball Is in Your Court: Help Get the Unemployed Back to Work

September 9, 2011
Related Topics: Strategy and Management

In a speech delivered to a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama offered perhaps the most important on-boarding initiative facing our country: a plan to get millions of Americans back to work.

The plan, composed of $447 billion of spending initiatives and tax cuts to potentially boost economic growth and alleviate a weak job market, calls for aid to state schools and local governments, funding for hiring new teachers, as well as a $10 billion “infrastructure bank” and $50 billion for “transportation projects,” The Wall Street Journal reports this morning.

Regardless of what side of the political divide you reside on, his speech should serve as a reminder to both new hires and talent managers that amid our own efforts to boost our initial job performance and assimilate new employees, there is still a greater on-boarding challenge at large.

Getting people back to work in an evolving job market is obviously no simple task, and it remains to be seen if the president’s plan — roughly titled the American Jobs Act — will be passed by Congress and put into action. At any rate, employers should consider taking their own proactive approach, if not to create new jobs then to find new ways to offer volunteer and low-cost work opportunities so people can build new skills to stay competitive in the market.

There are barriers to this, no doubt. But, as reports keep indicating, it’s the long-term unemployed who are making up most of the unemployed, and they are the ones lacking the necessary skills required by most job openings. According to a nugget in Thursday’s paper edition of The Wall Street Journal, most companies are, in fact, looking to hire. There were 52.8 percent more job openings in July than two years earlier, according to data the Journal cites from the U.S. Department of Labor. But hiring was up just 8.7 percent, which potentially means companies are willing to hire, but are unable to find workers with the skills they need, the Journal said.

This can only mean the longer-term unemployed are falling behind. Making efforts to get some of these folks in the door and contributing while picking up some of the skills necessary in today’s job market is a start. Most organizations may not be equipped to do so, but it’s a challenge worth embracing.

Create a quasi on-boarding program, where folks looking to work hard while refreshing their skills can build new experiences to close a resume gap. Or at least design an initiative that educates on what skills your company looks for, and how people can work to attain them, even if not inside your office.

I don’t have the answers, that’s for sure. But employers shouldn’t have to wait for the government to fix the situation - there must be action taken to help the unemployed on their venture to regain or find full-time work. What options are out there? What programs might employers already be implementing? The ball is in your court.


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