Friday, March 27, 2009

Check your priorities

Unemployment has hit an 18-year high in Maine, at least that’s what the talking head told me this morning on the television set. Each morning (or evening), the news anchors drone on with their plethora of pitiful news stories—the single mother of eight, who lost her job at the box factory. The millworker who’s been at the same paper machine for 26 years, who lost his job, has no computer skills, and is lamenting why we have computers anyway.

It is depressing as hell, if you buy the vibe they’re selling you that the sky is falling and the world is about to end.

I’m certainly no Pollyanna, willing to put an overly optimistic spin on bad news. Those who know me will certainly attest to that. Yes, the economy has taken a serious downturn, and there are fewer job opportunities than there were a year ago. However, there are employers out there that are hiring people that have the requisite skills that employers value in the 21st century.

There are a good many people currently out of work, not by choice, but because their employer laid them off. There are also segments of the population that are out of work now that were out of work one year ago, when things were booming.

Laurie Ruettimann, at her blog, Punk Rock HR touches on this issue, today.

Good economy, or bad, there seems to be a segment of the population for whom work isn’t either one, or two, in their list of priorities.

Personally, if success is what you are looking to achieve, it needs to be one, or in some rare cases, possibly two. For some, however, it doesn’t even make their top ten! I’m not sure why that is.

I know I’ll get some that will make compelling cases, telling me that their family, or their children, or even their pet hampster are more important than their job. That’s all well and good between you and I, but make sure your employer doesn’t know that.

For those that just got their pink slip, here’s some advice that I hope you’ll heed. You’ve got 26 weeks to take an inventory, retool, and pick up some new skills that employers are looking for. Maybe it’s technology skills you are lacking. Call your local adult ed office and find out when they’re running their next computer class.

Maybe you’ve been working in manufacturing, and by adding some new skills to what you've already got might make you more attractive to precision manufacturers when they start getting orders to restock depleted global inventories.

Our local workforce board is partnering with Central Maine Community College, and the Manufacturers Association of Maine, in offering a 12-week precision manufacturing training program in Lewiston-Auburn that starts May 18.

While this no cost training got quite a bit of attention from job seekers about a month ago, resulting in a flurry of phone calls, that eagerness has mysteriously cooled for some. It's possible that asking candidates to come in as soon as possible to take the assessment exam required for admittance was too much to ask. Certainly, the 11th grade math requirement winnowed the list down for some. However, for those that aren’t quite where they need to be, I’ve arranged for an eight week math and computer prep class for 10-12 candidates. I’m still struggling to fill my other slots.

I recognize that not everyone wants to work in precision manufacturing, but in a down economy, with thousands out of work, it would seem counter intuitive that I’d have to work just as hard on the recruitment side for this program, as well as others, like WorkReady, as I have in the past, when employers were clamoring for good help.

Then again, a case could be made that we’ve made if far too easy for some not to work.

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