There’s Complaints About the Skills Gap Again. But There Are Also Solutions.

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The latest jobs numbers were unveiled on Friday, and the news for manufacturing was pretty good. About 36,000 new jobs were created in June, according to the Labor Department — and roughly 285,000 factory jobs have been added over the past year.

(Notably, the fabricated metals industry saw 7,000 new jobs in June. This suggests that fears about the steel tariffs, now in their fourth month, might have been a tad overblown. But we digress.)

Anyway, the overall economy saw 213,000 new jobs last month, another consistent month of growth. With the economy nearing full employment, fears are rising that the “U.S. labor shortage is reaching a critical point.”

“Business’ number one problem is finding qualified workers. At the current pace of job growth, if sustained, this problem is set to get much worse,” Moody’s Analytics economist Mark Zandi told CNBC. “These labor shortages will only intensify across all industries and company sizes.”

Luckily for businesses, another CNBC story published this week on this exact issue might just contain one solution to this problem.

A CNBC Global CFO Council survey found that 84 percent of companies say they have had trouble in the past year filling skilled positions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the No. 1 thing corporations care about when selecting new worksites is finding workers with the right set of skills. They also consider local infrastructure and the cost of doing business in a new location.

But those same companies also do not prioritize the quality of life for those valuable skilled workers, including things like education and cost of living, which rank at the bottom of their list.

So basically, these companies want to find people who have the exact skill set they need, in a location that is perfect for them, but do not take into account how their decisions will impact the very people they need to run their business. Companies then wonder why they can’t find skilled people to work for them.

And there’s another big issue floating around that’s also likely to be playing a role.

Pressure is mounting on companies to be more proactive in recruiting workers, including by raising wages, which have been relatively stagnant. As CNBC reports:

“Economists expect that employers are going to have to start doing more to entice workers, likely through pay raises, training and other incentives.”

Although the “skills gap” is now being discussed across the larger economy, it’s been talked about in manufacturing circles for years. Here at AAM, we’ve always argued that while there is a legitimate need to institute public policy to properly train and recruit people to help fill advanced manufacturing jobs, companies themselves also must step up and play an active role.

Efforts such as apprenticeship and workforce development programs are critical, of course. But employers also must treat the people whose skill sets they desperately need with respect. That includes things like paying a fair wage and taking into account the overall quality of life of their staff.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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Make Father's Day Union Made!