Today, MPR News broadcast a conversation with Chris Farrell and Twanna Black (Northside Funders Group) about barriers to employment in the face of a growing workforce shortage. MN employers complain about the lack of skilled, trained employees for a wide range of positions. From the opposite perspective, prospective employees report a variety of hurdles to being hired, including employers requiring ready-to-use skills and knowledge that exactly meet the employer’s needs.
When I joined the workforce, both as a young employee and throughout my working career, my employers assumed they were hiring my innate intelligence, the education I’d accumulated to that point and a willingness to be trained in the policies, processes and culture of the hiring organization. To date, it’s been a win-win: I’ve produced and my employers thrived.
Today’s employers seem to expect that education and training is the responsibility of another entity—the prospective employee, counties, workforce development centers, educators—and that investment is not theirs to make. Yet, Minnesota’s community investment in education, training and experience can be ignored if it’s in the best interest of the employer to move, to another state or country, to minimize taxes and maximize shareholder return. Employers can’t have it both ways.
As employers grapple with workforce hiring challenges, meeting this workforce where it is requires a change of mindset. Preparedness is a function of race, age and gender but all cohorts have a great deal to offer. Employers committed to recruiting and training a wider range of candidates are at an advantage. Lower turnover costs resulting from extended retention can be monitored to offset the initial investment. Employees report being willing and ready to work; employers could optimize this potential resource with an up-front expense. This approach worked in the past; it could benefit employers and employees now.