Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Connecting Work and Workers

Jobs, of course, are on the forefront of almost everyone's mind when it comes to the difficult position of Michigan's economy. 8.5% of people in the state are currently either actively looking for work, or alternatively enjoying a high-stress "vacation" in which they are collecting unemployment and waiting until their unemployment runs out. On top of that, increasingly more people are feeling less confident that their jobs will also be around tomorrow. Factoring in all of this and the fact that an employment turnaround does not seem imminent, I find articles like this highly confusing.

To briefly summarize for those of you who are too lazy to go to that link, the state of Michigan is suffering from a shortage of IT and computer science-related workers. In fact, there are in-state companies actively seeking individuals (to whom they would pay salaries!) to fill spots within their organizations. These companies need the necessary resources to grow their businesses, so they are forced to find non-local contractors or even offshore their employment base just to fulfill their basic needs. This is surprising on many levels, and I think the article fails to address a major underlying cause of this problem.

In my humble but incredibly insightful opinion, there is a fundamental ineptitude within the state (and also across the country) to connect the companies that need the workers with the workers that need the employment. There are many websites out there with job postings from companies - monster.com, careerbuilder.com, hotjobs.com, etc., intended to fill this gap, but for some reason or another, these methods do not seem to effectively connect the interested and needy parties. In the past, I have spent some time scouring these websites looking for work opportunities, but it reminds me of reading my way through the Yellow Pages to try to find an appliance store for repairs. Do I got to 'Appliances' or to 'Repairs' or to 'Home Improvement' or what? I first have to find the correct category within the Yellow Pages, and then have to pick from one of dozens or even hundreds of possibilities within each category. Which one is best? Which one is cheapest? How many do I have to call before one can schedule a decent appointment time? I can use the dictionary to help me figure out how to spell a word, but if I don't correctly know the first 4 or 5 letters of the complicated word, I won't be able to find it in the friggin' dictionary. It is incredibly discouraging, frustrating, and once you find a company with whom you would like to leave an application, the app just disappears into the internet ether, seemingly forever with no clear outcome or next step in sight.

At the moment I don't have a great solution to this problem, but I know there must be one out there - some sort of centralized system or well publicized state sponsored office intended to vet potential job candidates for open positions and to direct these candidates to the right place for employment consideration. Maybe this organization exists, but if it does and no one I know is familiar with this organization, it is not fulfilling its advertising obligation to make the public aware of its existence. Such an organization would reduce the time wasted for both the companies looking for employees as well as prospective employees praying for work, and more importantly, reduce the unemployment rate in a meaningful way.

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to fend entirely for themselves, but in times of extreme need, the state should play some part to help fill this need.

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