The Economist: Businesses are hiring…

My column last issue that touched on (un)employment spurred a lot of commentary, all from people challenged to fill open positions. Perhaps it’s that the unemployed are too busy job hunting to read ColoradoBiz.

One man described at length the trouble of finding qualified workers. When he posts a job, he told me, he receives resumes from:

•    People in faraway places like Iran and Venezuela

•    People hoping for a big raise if they move
to Colorado

•    Failed entrepreneurs

•    “Quick learners” — a.k.a. people without
the requisite skills

•    People who aimlessly send out hundreds
of resumes a day

In his opinion, anyone can find a job; if you want a specific job and don’t have the skills, get them. He pointed to the shortage of skilled craftsmen in the construction industry as one example.

I am particularly interested in what he and others like him are saying.

In my immediate experience, I’ve had two family members who moved to Colorado and lived with me for a couple months while they hunted for work. They treated the job hunt as an eight-hour-a-day job in and of itself.

Within a few weeks, the more experienced of the two found work as an office manager, her career of choice. The less experienced, who lacked even a high school diploma, found a job at a fast food restaurant and over the following months was able to move from minimum wage to double that by changing employers. A GED and community college are on the horizon.

I’m just home from a few days in downtown Chicago where the aggressiveness of the seemingly countless panhandlers shocked me. There are beggars in Denver and Colorado Springs, but on a much smaller scale.

The difference is not simply unemployment rates, which in July were comparable in Chicago and Colorado Springs – 6.6 percent versus 6.5 percent. The clerk at a local home improvement store who was on his way to his second job at Burger King explained to me: “They make around $46 an hour panhandling.”

Now, before I am deluged with emails from the social workers and agencies that work with the impoverished, let me say that I know the problem is not simply that people on the street are too lazy to get an education and/or a job. My husband worked for 25 years in a psych ward at a Denver hospital and when we walked down 16th Street Mall, I knew the guys in gray flannel suits carrying briefcases and he knew those going through trash barrels. When we deinstitutionalized the mentally ill 40 years ago without making adequate alternative arrangements for them, we created a huge problem.

But I think the good news is businesses are hiring and jobs are available again. If a worker wants to improve his job prospects, we have apprenticeship programs, a great community college system, and state schools that offer classes at night and on weekends. When the chancellor at CU Colorado Springs asked everyone in the graduating class who was working to pay for college to stand, only a handful of graduates remained seated.

The economy really is getting better and the job opportunities are out there!

Categories: Economy/Politics