OUR OPINION: Labor shortage needs multifaceted fix
As employers in northwestern Minnesota know, the workforce shortage isn't just approaching. It's already here. That's why Digi-Key runs commuter buses from Crookston, Bagley, Minn., and East Grand Forks to its Thief River Falls headquarters, and ...
As employers in northwestern Minnesota know, the workforce shortage isn't just approaching. It's already here.
That's why Digi-Key runs commuter buses from Crookston, Bagley, Minn., and East Grand Forks to its Thief River Falls headquarters, and offers scholarships, relocation bonuses and a rich array of other benefits to entice potential employees.
Other companies are taking similar steps. But as today's ThreeSixty columns report and a recent Center for Rural Policy study confirms, more almost certainly will be needed, because the situation isn't going to turn around anytime soon.
For the past 60 years, "policy makers had to figure out how to create jobs to employ all the Baby Boomers out there," notes the fact sheet from the center, a Mankato, Minn.-based think tank.
"Now, the generations replacing the Baby Boomers aren't numerous enough to fill those jobs." Just the opposite: While the population of 15-to-64-year-olds in northwestern Minnesota is expected to shrink by 7 percent (or 7,500 people) between now and 2035, the population of 64-year-olds and older is expected to grow by 56 percent (or 19,000 people).
Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean the workforce population will shrink. After all, not everyone leaves the workforce at 64, and even a lot of retirees want and expect to keep working.
But it does confirm the challenges local governments and employers will face, as labor stays at a premium in the region.
And it makes it all the more useful for communities, regions and advocacy groups to share possible solutions. For example:
"One strategy (Olmsted County, Minn., Commissioner Sheila) Kiscaden proposes is recruiting people who live in high-unemployment areas such as northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula," the Rochester, Minn., Post-Bulletin reported last week.
" 'You might say, 'Gee, why do people live there when there are no jobs.' Well, they love the woods; they love the nature and the outdoors,' Kiscaden said. 'We can show them that we have beautiful rivers and beautiful woodlands in southern Minnesota - and we have jobs that pay well. We can show them that it's more than just a job; we have a beautiful lifestyle.' "
Here's another idea, this one from the Center for Rural Policy's fact sheet: Put more focus on minorities and immigrants. After all, "they're the only population group still growing, but their education and employment levels are still suffering," the fact sheet continues.
"Help make sure they are ready for success in this new employment environment."
On the upside, the workforce shortage at last is getting the attention it deserves. Mayors, CEOs, nonprofit groups and many others are speaking out and pooling ideas; and in America, once that happens, social problems are on their way to being solved.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald