Workforce Outlook for 2022
The amalgamation of the emergence of the Omicron strain, an aging workforce, generous stimulus money and unemployment benefits and a lingering lack of affordable childcare will continue to impact the labor market in a variety of industries. According to Labor Department’s latest JOLTS report, 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in November which equals 3% of the workforce. Front line and low-wage workers are leaving at higher rates, where working remote is seldom an option, flexibility is limited and in turn, workers are seeking opportunities where their well-being is prioritized. Employee well-being has expanded beyond physical well-being to include emotional, financial, social and career wellness for themselves and their family.
For example, in the agricultural sector, despite sustainable wage increases for their local workers, producers continue to struggle to find labor for their operations and are becoming increasing reliant upon temporary, foreign agricultural workers through the somewhat cumbersome and inefficient (H-2A) program, in which producers are required to pay workers special rates and at times, provide housing and transportation. As farmers struggle to find and fund adequate labor coverage, the US is losing our competitive advantage to foreign countries. Agrotechnology can address some of these issues, however only certain crops are machine serviceable. Pennsylvania, for example, grows plenty of specialty crops which require manual labor.
In the manufacturing sector in order to address their recruiting difficulties, employers have resorted to lowering educational work requirements. During the pandemic, fewer younger people were able to pursue post-high school education, including training at trade schools, as many of these organization were shut down. The burden will fall upon the employer to provide training on their own to these entry level workers, while simultaneously reskilling and upskilling their existing workforce. The pandemic has accelerated changes to technology and the way work gets done, thus employers must be prepared to offer more educational opportunities for workers, including high quality online learning platforms. Clearly, employers prefer to invest in candidates who are culturally fluent, have a high level of emotional intelligence and are resilient.
However, it must be noted that both academia and the government can supplement the employer-based learning, by providing rapid radical reskilling, to reduce training time so applicants can secure family sustaining employment, without the traditional college semester approach. To alleviate the current labor shortage, governmental stipends to cover living expenses could be offered to encourage participation in these accelerated training programs.
On the other hand, some workers would prefer to remain in their current profession and are more interested in incremental skills to enhance earning potential and advancement opportunities. Flexibility remains paramount in support and training of the future and current workforce.
Bottom line, to adequately address the instabilities in the labor market exasperated by the pandemic, we must focus on collaborative and innovative solutions by industry, academia, and government. Together, we must address the labor shortage by facilitating labor mobility and remote working, upskilling, and reskilling the work force and provide safety nets and educational opportunities for workers. Collaboratively, we must vision an ideal end state workforce and tap all resources to turn that ideal into a reality.
SEWN can provide your company with a no-cost evaluation of your situation to assess needs and potential deficiencies. Our holistic approach to problem solving is customized for your business with absolutely no obligation. Contact us for more information.