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Dear Employers, Job Seekers, and Young People Starting Out

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The publishing careers & Stuff is perfectly timed. We need it; especially now. It is that special mag that starts conversations.

William J. Potter

So, let’s get this one started.

The post-COVID labor market — which I was asked to talk about — is in flux. I am normally a data geek when it comes to developing occupation lists and labor market projections, but right now, those short-term tools may not provide the insights we need to recover from a catastrophic work disruption. You see, the data we use is a complex mishmash of intricate formulas, surveys, and economics. It percolates over years to develop usable trend analysis and relies on consistency to get it right.

I don’t pretend to understand it all, but suffice it to say, the system doesn’t like catastrophic workforce disruptions. That means, to some extent, we might be flying a bit blind for a while. And the long-term projections won’t immediately provide actionable insight to deal with problems today.

Even against such a bleak background, there is hope: industry leaders are talking to me, and they have great things to say.

For example, construction and trades leaders tell me they have plenty of good jobs with good pay and great career potential. They tell me they can’t get people to apply for these jobs because there are some inaccurate negative stereotypes about construction. They tell me if young people could spend some time working in construction or the trades, they’d see things differently.

You know what else employers are telling me?

They say there is a mass exodus of Baby Boomers to retirement and these workers need to be replaced. That’s not a temporary thing either. The need for new workers will be around for years because America’s birthrate has and continues to drop. In fact, Associated Press reports this year’s birth rate dropped to 4.2% — the lowest in a century. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is worried there won’t be enough legal immigration to meet future employment needs. This means there is lots of opportunity for job seekers and new workers now and in the future.

Sadly, they’re telling me this too: one of their greatest challenges is finding applicants who won’t come up “hot” on a urinalysis. It’s not just construction and trades guys telling me this — it’s all employers. Employers want a workforce they trust with expensive and/or dangerous equipment, and that means no dope. Apparently, there are more people smoking weed than I realized, and they are sabotaging their own success.

But you know, I talk to job seekers too and they’re telling me something different.

When I tell them what I just told you about the availability of jobs, their response is usually something on the order of, “Really?” or “Where can I apply?”

So there is a disconnect somewhere between the job seekers and job creators. Maybe a solution can be found at the Delaware Department of Labor, Division of Employment and Training (DOL-DET), or the Delaware Workforce Development Board. Contact us on Twitter@DEworkforce. After all, convening is what we do.

William J. Potter is the executive director of the Delaware Workforce Development Board. 

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