Op-ed: Businesses must do their part to solve Utah’s skilled labor shortage

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Employers are also finding themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not enough workers are emerging from training programs with the skills employers need. In 2016, job tenures dropped to 4.2 years — with 25 to 34 year olds demonstrating a third of the average tenure of their 55 to 64 year old peers. Industrial employers now see few incentives to invest in training employees since it seems they leave at a higher frequency than ever before.

Any professional association will tell you access to talent is the biggest challenge facing Utah’s industrial businesses. But our current skilled labor shortage is not a temporary phenomenon. It’s a product of a gradual breakdown in the mutual commitment between industrial employers and blue-collar employees. Luckily, the very Utah businesses most affected by the skilled labor shortage hold the power to solve it.

Long gone is the era of an employee accepting a career-long position with a single employer. Since the 1980s, as global competition increased, businesses lowered costs by offshoring production and investing in process improvements and automation. These strategies yielded returns for corporations, but resulted in the loss of industrial jobs to other countries or into the ether.

As industrial workers left the workforce or transitioned to white-collar careers, the golden age of American industry tarnished. The power of our blue-collar role-models was replaced by the scars of big layoffs and the roar of the for-profit education marketing engine, promising white-collar jobs for all. Private sector labor unions receded, offering fewer protections for job seekers. A national obsession with contract and temporary workers further eroded workforce…

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