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Workforce Challenges


t is no secret that one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today is the lack of a skilled labor force. Perhaps more accurately stated, the challenge is a huge mismatch in the jobs that are available compared to the workforce that is able to fill those jobs. The jobs that are in high demand have relatively few candidates who are able to move readily into those positions.

Contributing to this mismatch is continual advancements in technology, while at the same time a workforce that is aging and producing unqualified candidates. In a recent blog on Forbes.com, the toughest jobs to fill in 2017 ¹ had various degrees of skill sets needed, but many of them relied on skill sets that were farther advanced than what might be needed for traditional manufacturing jobs. This list also gave a peek into the future of what the anticipated growth rate of these needed positions might be over the next 8 years. Growth rates ranged from the low end of 5% to a high of 38%. A wide range of jobs were represented in this list including OTR truck drivers, data scientists, software engineers, financial advisors, and information security analysts.

Both federal and state governments have recognized the need to implement training programs to meet the demands that businesses need to fill their workforce. Knowing what the labor pool consists of and what skills gaps may or may not be present is a key deciding factor when companies are looking to locate or expand in a particular region. Those regions that have taken a proactive approach to retraining its workforce are faring better than their neighbors.

Sadly, another huge impact on workforce availability is the ever increasing use of drugs and opioids, especially in jobs that are tied to manufacturing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to find workers who can pass a drug test. According to an article published on LinkedIn, “positive drug test results had reached a twelve year high, driven largely by an increase in marijuana and cocaine use, based on its analysis of 10 million workplace drug screenings.” ² Even the Federal Reserve recognizes that the drug epidemic has resulted in a decrease in the labor participation rate.

Governments, employers, community partners, and economic development groups across the country need to band together to discover ways to make the workforce openings/available applicants ratio decrease dramatically. The economy will be better for it. But more importantly, lives affected by lack of training, underutilized skills, or addictions that prevent gainful employment will greatly benefit.

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