In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama said the administration was going to focus on creating jobs and getting people back to work. It’s about time. Really. We’ve all known for a painfully long time it will take getting people back to work to kick this recession in the butt. Employed people spend money and spending money grows the economy. I’m not Ben Bernanke and even I figured this out.
The initiatives to create jobs can’t come soon enough. In fact, I’m curious to know what’s going on with the outcomes from the jobs summit that was held last year. You remember the jobs summit? My recall of the event was very few human resources professionals were on the invite list. Such a shame. You’d like to think that any conversation about creating jobs would have HR pros in the room.
I’ve been biting my tongue about this for quite some time. I have my own theory on why human resources wasn’t at the jobs summit. It’s because HR pros aren’t focused on job “creation”. Instead they’re focused on job “readiness”.
Now be forewarned. If you’re not interested in job creation as a method to stimulate economic growth, or if you were hoping for something fluffier or sexy, please feel free to move along to another blog today. (But do come back tomorrow, I promise to lighten up. But today, I’m on a bent about job creation.)
Let me start by saying I’m not anti-job readiness. It’s important to prepare our current and future workforce for jobs. But let’s face it; if we have a whole bunch of ready people and no jobs . . . well, I think you can see the rest.
A few years back, I received an invitation to join our local workforce development board. My first thought was “Good grief, what does this have to do with me?” But I accepted the invitation and served on the board for several years. I learned a lot. Let me repeat that…I learned a lot. Here are a few highlights:
One of the most complicated things I’ve ever been exposed to is workforce board funding. The money comes from the federal government (via each state). The three major sources are the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Wagner-Peyser Act. When I was on the board, we were keenly interested in everything that pertained to this funding. Interestingly enough, today I hear very little about the importance of these funding streams and the need to make sure workforce boards are fully funded.
Workforce spending is specific. Meaning that most of the time, workforce boards can’t just spend funding on whatever they want. Or in some cases what their community needs (do you see a problem here?). Each funding stream has very specific rules about how the funds are spent. This is why you might hear in some communities about training dollars being exhausted but other funds might still be available.
Partnerships are essential. Two key alliances are with economic development and education. Workforce boards work closely with their economic development counterparts to ensure businesses have access to talent. They also work with schools, colleges and universities to make sure certain jobs essential to the community have available curriculum.
Measurements are important, but they must be the right metrics. Workforce boards are no different than anyone else – their outcomes determine future funding. Unfortunately, when you work with standardized outcomes that have no accounting for local dynamics, a workforce board is placed in the position of balancing “making the numbers” with “satisfying a community need.” This has to be fixed.
Right now you’re probably saying: Sharlyn, this sounds so boring. Or maybe you think it sounds a lot like math. And that’s no fun.
Sorry but that’s the point. Fixing the jobs issue isn’t fluffy or light-hearted. It’s not sexy. It’s hard work. IMHO, it’s one of the best ways for human resources professionals (or any business pro for that matter) to demonstrate their ability to be strategic. Get involved in the creation of jobs. Learn how your workforce development system works and lead change where it’s needed. I guarantee it will be an educational and eye-opening experience. Not to mention the positive impact it will have on the economic recovery of your community.
Looking to help a friend or family member find a job? Help them by creating one.