Closing the Skills Gap with the 99 Jobs Plan

This is the eighth post in a series of posts on jobs plansVote on who you think has the best jobs plan for you and your business.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.  Mine consisted of all the perfect ingredients for Thanksgiving: food, family, friends, hiking, movies, and reading – including Ben Casselman’s WSJ article, Help Wanted: In Unexpected Twist, Some Skilled Jobs Go Begging.

Casselman reports on the surprising frustration of a Union Pacific Corp. recruiter, as she struggles to find qualified workers for open heavy-duty blue-collar jobs, such as: commercial and industrial electricians, welders, and mechanical and installation technicians.

This highlights a skills gap problem, the significance of which is, as the WSJ article notes, “hotly debated in economics circles…” because the remedy to our sluggish economy “might instead be training or other efforts to help workers get skills.”

Regardless of how big of a problem it is, skills gap is a problem.  And I have a solution to fix it…

It’s called the 99 Jobs Plan.

However, if 101 Jobs were to be identified as skills gap jobs, then the plan would be called the 101 Jobs Plan.

I also drew inspiration from Philip Greenspun: Obama Wants to Pay the Unemployed to Play Xbox for 151 Weeks on, in which Greenspun lists more constructive ways an unemployed person can spend their 99 weeks, such as “start and finish an aviation maintenance degree and FAA certification, learn heavy equipment operation, and complete almost any trade school, e.g. plumbing or electrician.”

So here’s the plan:

Step 1 Identify and promote the skills gap jobs.

The U.S. Department of Labor is tasked with identifying all the jobs, in which there is a skills gap problem.

For instance, they would look at positions that have a large number of job openings that have remained unfilled for a long time.

In 2001, Elaine L. Chao, the Secretary of Labor wrote about “the skills gap” in information-based industries, but didn’t foresee the problem expanding to high-skilled industrial positions.  She did write that “In this new century, BLS (Bureau of Labor and Statistics) will continue to provide us the tools needed to face these… ever-more-complex labor market problems.”

So the DOL and BLS should make good on their mission and create a list of the 99 (or however many) skills gap jobs: jobs in which their are a lot of open positions that remain unfilled for an extended period of time (say over 6 months).

These 99 jobs should get publicized so that every working and unemployed American becomes aware of these high need areas.

Step 2 Create and promote 99 Jobs Training and Certification programs.

The DOL’s Employment and Training Administration will then revamp their programs, organization, and CareerOneStop Pathways to Career Success website to funnel as many unemployed people as possible into the appropriate training and certification programs for these high-need high-skilled jobs.

The U.S. DOL works with state DOLs to also retool their training and certification programs around the 99 Jobs Plan.

The U.S. Department of Education, along with state DOEs, are also tasked with embracing the skills gap as a major issue in education, and retooling vocational secondary and college-level education around the 99 Jobs Plan.

Step 3 Create candidate database of graduates of 99 Jobs Training and Certification programs.

As unemployed individuals complete or graduate from 99 Jobs affiliated training and certification programs, they get a 99 Jobs candidate profile in the DOL’s 99 Jobs Candidate Database.

Employers will be able to sign up for a free account to have access to search the 99 Jobs Candidate Database. The DOL will also partner with CareerBuilder, Monster, Indeed, Linkedin and other relevant job boards, job sites, and social networks to offer free searching and resume matching products right from their sites too.

Step 4 (maybe) Incentify employers to hire 99 Jobs Graduates

I marked this as “maybe” because I’m not sure how necessary this would be since 99 Jobs Graduates would possess highly needed skills.

But, if necessary, employer Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes could be waived for the first year on wages paid to 99 Jobs Graduates.

Here are some additional thoughts for a plan like the 99 Jobs Plan:

How big do you think the skills gap problem is?  What do you think of the 99 Jobs Plan – any ways you think the idea could be improved?

Everett Reiss
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