Last month’s gain of 192,000 net new jobs indicated that job creation might finally be on the uptick. The unemployment rate -down to 8.9 percent – has now declined nearly a full percentage point since November 2010, the steepest drop over a three-month span since 1983.
While that’s good news, Elaine Chao, former Secretary of Labor, reminded participants attending the 2011 Human Capital Institute Summit, that we actually need 200,000 net new jobs per month just to keep up with our growing population. (That’s not so bad compared to China, where they need 25 million net new jobs per year just to keep up with their growing population.)
New jobs and a falling unemployment rate, despite what the press and political pundits might have you beleive, aren’t the only things that matters when we look toward an economic recovery.
The labor participation is still quite low. According to Chao, we’re only at 62.4 percent, the lowest it has been in 25 years. Chao describes the reason for the low participation as a general lack of confidence that people currently have around their ability to find new jobs.
Chao also confirmed her belief that American workers still have high education levels and strong skills sets. It’s just that we don’t have enough of these skilled, educated workers to fill jobs in the fastest growth areas – Nanotechnology, Geospacial Technology, Life Sciences, and Healthcare – that will plague employers for years to come.
Up until this point in her presentation, there wasn’t much to argue with – facts are facts.
Then the tide turned for me. It was her example of “one of the few great remaining training grounds” – the fast food industry. I’m not disputing that the industry isn’t doing a good job. But I find it depressing that she felt their efforts warranted such attention because the fast food training curriculum must cover these basics:
- Punctuality is important.
- Personal hygiene is important.
- Anger management/conflict resolution.
- When this boss tells you something, it isn’t a suggestion!
Is training workers to be punctual and clean something so compelling that a former Secretary of Labor feels it’s worthy of commendation? Has our education and training systems fallen so far that timeliness and cleanliness are significant achievements? When we’re talking about finding a way to ramp up the skills of workers so that we can compete effectively in a changing global marketplace, shouldn’t we be recognizing companies or industries that excel at training workers to think creativity, solve complex problems, manage virtual teams, or deliver outstanding customer service?
The state of our workforce may be improving but if training punctuality and personal hygiene is the best example of good job training we can offer, we will be seriously outmanned in our efforts to compete in a global economy.This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.