Editorial

Lift the gates off policies and practices creating hurdles to employment

April 10, 2015
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Business Leaders for Michigan senior executives focused on an “emergency” in educational skill sets during a CEO panel discussion in Grand Rapids, and after all the presentations and discussions, the result seemed to be a foregone conclusion: A disconnect between educators and business owners and a mismatch of needed skill sets is to blame for thousands of unfilled job positions.

The Business Journal observes that such a conclusion is only a part of the issue — or solution — and business owners must also look in the mirror to identify the “mismatches” between advice and standard practices as well as the disconnect among the general public.

BLM and other Michigan business groups advocated for Common Core curriculum, for instance, which was very nearly stymied in Michigan by public perceptions and their weight on legislators. The curriculum was precisely targeted to increase U.S. educational attainments following years of decline against other industrialized nations.

The business community identified decades ago that its workforce was worldwide. Wolverine World Wide Chairman, President and CEO Blake Krueger noted during the panel roundtable: “We aren’t competing against Texas, Oregon or Indiana. We are competing against Poland, India, China and Mexico.” Krueger further noted offshore talent is not limited to unskilled jobs but increasingly includes higher skill jobs.

As both Michigan Future Inc. and Center for Michigan research indicates, education must be the state’s No. 1 commitment in dollars and programs. Yet school funding is once again on the target list for cuts as legislators work to resolve a budget shortfall.

Business leaders really can’t wait for public policies and bureaucracies to understand the very real crisis. Of crisis, innovative programs are often born, like that of Meijer pairing with schools and universities in a variety of programs and internships in warehousing, food management, pharmacy and technology.

But business owners also must look at the hurdles they’ve erected.

Employers advise they need employees with critical-thinking abilities and innovative solutions and ideas. But often those with such attributes don’t make it past the square box of those doing the recruiting or hiring, or the application forms that require absolutes instead of thoughtful responses. The forms and recruiters themselves often mismatch the attributes desired.

Dr. John Sullivan, an internationally recognized HR thought leader who regularly contributes to national business publications, opines in a recent column that connections can’t occur ”unless current recruiting systems are redesigned so that they can now effectively recruit and hire these hard-to-land innovators.”

He also notes those individuals “often resist applying for a job simply because they don’t have the time to update their résumé.” He advocates “the rapid movement of current employees into new areas where they can have a higher impact,” and notes, “the most effective solutions have involved either using corporate recruiters to proactively move underused employees or encouraging employee referrals to quickly identify a wider range of talent for internal openings.”

The emergency is certainly not underestimated, and a continued effort to improve education is essential, but business owners must also look at their practices and procedures to open the front gates.

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