America’s Greatest Threat? Lack of Hourly Workers!
I spoke to a group of upcoming high graduates yesterday, and it got me to thinking about the future. I don’t dump on young kids like most people do today. My feeling is we all sucked when we were young. We grew up. Got experienced. And we suck less. But we look at young people and we are shocked they suck at mostly everything. We. All. Did. When. We. Were. Young!
Businesses, big and small are desperate currently for workers. Low-skill, semi-skilled, people who have no skill but are willing to be trained. The hourly rate is anywhere between $12-22/hr. I’ve spoken to companies in every market and industry, many of whom will tell me they’ll hire as many people as they can find, they just can’t find anyone!
Now, I don’t want to get into all the reasons why organizations are struggling to find hourly workers. There are many, and it’s a complex situation that isn’t going away anytime soon. I want to focus on how not having enough hourly workers puts America at a competitive disadvantage in the world.
What Happens When America Can’t Hire Enough Workers?
First, organizations will do what it takes actually to hire talent. They increase wages and benefits, which initially seems like a big win for workers. Businesses will also raise prices to pay for those additional expenses. Say hello to inflation. The supply and demand dynamics of labor all happen fairly quickly.
Organizations will look to become more efficient and add technology that, in the long term, can be a better value than workers. Let’s be honest, this has been happening since the beginning of time, but in times of true pain in hiring, all this speeds up and happens faster than normal. Say hello to the robots!
Companies will offshore more more than they already do to countries with an abundance of hourly workers. China, Mexico, India, and various countries in Africa if they can get politically stable, will gain millions of jobs from organizations looking to sell their products in America. Say hello to more jobs leaving our shores. Also, as we’ve seen with the Pandemic, this will cause further issues with our supply chain in critical times.
What Should We Be Doing In America To Ensure We Have The Hourly Talent We Need?
Okay – I’ve got some ideas. Some you’ll agree with, some you’ll hate, but something has to change. American demographics are not changing. Our labor force is shrinking and we are getting older as a country. We have a crisis staring us in the face, and we are too divided to even see what’s really happening!
- Major investment into trades and apprenticeship programs at the high school and post-high school levels. Free College? Screw that. Rich folks can pay for college. Let’s have Free Trades and Apprenticeship programs. Let’s start these in Junior High and High School and continue their post-high school. Let’s have 22-year-old kids making $40-60K a year in skilled occupations.
- Blow up public education as we know it. It’s broken. Can we all admit to this? About 70% of kids are not college kids, but we force them down the path of college. Let’s have public education that promotes our best and brightest but also promotes kids who want to work with their hands, who want to work in the arts, etc. If we are the most powerful country on earth, why can’t we have multiple avenues for our kids, whether they are rich or poor?
- Encourage our children to once again be firefighters, police officers, home builders, big truck operators, cooks, delivery drivers, etc. Both boys and girls. I was struck when I was in Australia how many construction workers and road workers were female. You rarely see that in America. Our children should feel proud to have an occupation that is helping their community and others, but instead, we, as parents, talk down these occupations. Our children are constantly listening.
- Open the Mexican border. Uh oh, he didn’t just say that!? Yeah, you know who has millions of people who want the jobs that Americans don’t want? Mexico. If you don’t want to work that $15/hr job, step aside, there are people that do want those jobs. Plus, actually having a great labor force strengthens America! Would you rather have Mexican citizens come to America and make American products, or have American companies go to China and have the communist government of China make the products sent back to America and much of the profit goes to China or India, or somewhere else outside of America?
- Pay Equity laws limiting the spread of pay between the highest-paid executive and the lowest-paid employee. I’m not saying that entrepreneurs and executives don’t deserve great salaries for their efforts and their risks. They do. But should a CEO of a company make a $100M a year and the workers make $17/hr? That just seems a little bit out of line, right? Should a college football coach make $5M a year? It’s a stupid game. A game I love to watch, but come on! We’ve got a bit out of line with the haves and the have-nots.
- National Occupation Corp. What if every single American child upon graduating high school, put in one year of service into a select list of hourly occupations? Road workers, infrastructure projects, building affordable housing in their community, building parks, etc. Mormon kids do a two-year missionary to spread their word, and it doesn’t seem to harm them one bit, in fact, most would argue it actually helps them become better adults. Doing a national occupation corp would show some kids they actually love this type of work.
- End or fix programs that encourage workers not to work. We need people collecting unemployment to prove they can’t find a job. They can’t get work. Because, for the most part, it’s a lie! There is work everywhere! Our Unemployment Insurance system is broken and needs an overhaul.
How do you like those ideas!? A little GOP, a little Dem, a little socialism! If you’re a regular reader of the blog some of those ideas, coming from me, probably surprise you. This is how desperate I think this situation is! We are facing an economic meltdown in the future if we don’t fix this issue, that will make the great recession look like child’s play. America can not be without a great labor force, and right now, we are quickly trailing the rest of the world in the one thing we always hung our hard hat on.