What advice would you give someone who is unemployed and has begun to shift away from searching for work and is in danger of leaving the workforce all together?
The tens of thousands of people that lack marketable skills concern me. If you dig down a little deeper I’m especially concerned about the folks that have been out of the workforce a long time (the long-term unemployed). The folks whose network and work experience has deteriorated or evaporated to where if they were to sit down and craft an updated resume they wouldn’t have any pervious work experience and that would be really hard to explain when they’re sitting before an employer.
I worry about those folks, and I think what we offer is the solution. Everybody needs an entry point. How do I get back into the conversation? How do I explain the fact that I haven’t been doing anything for the last several years? You need that new entry point, or that rung on the ladder, and I think we provide that.
If you can plug into the workforce system you can find a great training program and then you come out and you have a hard skill. You have something to talk about and something to offer that has value. If it isn’t of value, if it isn’t marketable, we aren’t going to make that investment. We’re not going to train you for the job you lost or for your daddy’s job. We’re only going to train you for those in-demand positions.
So again, once you plug in with us and allow our workforce system to make an investment in you, you’re going to be well positioned to step back into the workforce. I think that really addresses that population that concerns so many of us; all those folks that lack marketable skills and in many cases have been out of the workforce for a very long time.
How do we have the tough conversation about jobs people may have had or thought they would have that are no longer an option?
I’ve been in workforce development dedicated solely to this work for almost four years, so I still try to rely on the wise voices of folks who’ve been around for decades. One of the things I’ve heard repeatedly is about this challenge of people who come in and want to be trained for the job their supervisor has or the job they’ve always envisioned they would do.
They’re not focused on workforce trends and those kinds of things, and they’re not necessarily thinking about what’s in demand. That’s not even in their lexicon. They’re just thinking about the jobs they’ve been exposed to. In many cases they don’t realize that not only has their position gone away but the supervisor’s position has gone away or will go away in the near future.
The best way to turn on that conversation is to come at it from a totally different angle and say, “Here’s what we do.” We’re trying to meet employer needs and fill those unfilled positions across the state. By doing that we’re going to serve you in the most strategic and effective way. We could please some folks by just answering yes in a quicker fashion to whatever they were asking for, but really it makes a lot more sense for all parties involved if we prepare you for something that’s actually out there.
And I think that’s something that’s generally appreciated, but it does come back to an understanding that we have in the workforce development community that in many instances folks will come in looking for something that doesn’t make sense for them, and I think there’s a re-education process that’s fairly simple. What we’re about here is preparing folks for in-demand jobs, and we think generally that’s what most folks will be interested in once we go through that process with them.