An opportunity for employers and the unemployed
ELKHORN — It’s no secret that unemployment remains the greatest drag on the local economy.
But it appears there is a growing realization that unemployment and the lack of jobs are two different things.
There are signs that economic growth is slowly coming back, on Thursday, the Walworth County Job Center hosted a job fair at Gateway Technical College in Elkhorn.
It was one of a growing number of initiatives to fill a growing number of jobs, especially in manufacturing.
But a new trend has emerged separating employers for the unemployed -- jobs mismatch.
At an informal meeting Oct. 19 in Elkhorn with manufacturing business owners in Walworth County, Rep. Don Manzullo, founder and co-chair of the House Manufacturing Caucus, said he heard from employers who are looking for workers.
“We have orders coming out of our ears,” Manzullo said one of the business owners told him. But what keeps them from getting a new machine tool, for example, is that they don’t know if they can get someone to run it.
It’s the job mismatch that is keeping workers from connecting with companies, which prompted a spirited debate among several at the roundtable about who should take the lead with job retraining. (See the video at Facebook.com/CSIMedia)
Realistically, the cost of going back to school just isn’t in the budget for those that don’t have a job.
During the stimulus years, federal job training money was available. But as a conservative Republican, it’s not surprising that Manzullo is not a big fan of having the government involved in job training.
What he is a fan of, is companies taking the lead in job training and retraining.
Manzullo, a Republican who represents Illinois’ 16th district in Congress, elaborated on the issue during a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Rockton Chamber of Commerce.
“People don’t need help with foreclosures,” Manzullo said. “They need help with jobs. When Americans get back to work, that will solve the housing problem.”
Sharon Hecox, office manager for Rockton Township in Rockton, Ill., oversees the township’s general assistance program and told Manzullo that people who come in for help are what she called the new poor.
“They are the ones who supported the system, they are the workers, they are the middle class, and there aren’t any answers right now,” she told Manzullo.
He listed several examples of partnerships between employers and community colleges to train workers for jobs that actually exist. Some companies have begun training programs of their own.
It’s an idea that should have broad appeal. Business owners typically don’t want government meddling in what they do, and people want to train for jobs they actually might get a paycheck doing.
Now it’s time for employers to take up the challenge.