WASHINGTON—United States Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Tuesday she knows that there are jobs out there that are not being filled because employers are looking for individuals that are flexible, adaptable and have the skill set to jump into another job.
Speaking at the Newseum at a National Journal Live policy summit, Solis said that she hears from employers often, that “they want individuals that have that flexibility. The message for many is be ready to get into different types of areas of your career,” she said. “I say to folks . . . get as many credentials as you need.”
People are also staying in the workforce longer due to the economic climate. “Unless we create more jobs, [that’s] going to be troubling,” Solis said. “Teens and those just out of college are not finding jobs . . . what kind of [hope] are we giving those people?”
As a result, there are a lot more moving pieces in play and understanding what everybody — especially those nearing retirement age and those just out college — can bring to the table is a key issue that companies often put off.
Many companies are aware of it, said Mike Brown, senior director of talent acquisition for Siemens U.S. in a panel discussion after Solis’ remarks. But like many things in life that are put off until tomorrow, this is one of them, he said.
For example, Siemens has “not got enough young people coming in and [has] the potential for knowledge to literally walk out the door.”
At the company, they have done several things today to overcome the possible near-term “tsunami of retirements” including a “future retirees group,” which has baby boomers get together with young professionals to share ideas.
It’s also important to realize that younger workers are bringing skills to the workplace that never existed before, including mobile skills, said Edward Vitalos, principal and founder of Grey Wave Ltd., a workforce trend consultancy.
Yet, young people also have a tendency for higher turnover. The simple solution would be to assume they are going to leave and not waste time or money on training, said Brown, who estimated that Siemens spends nearly half a billion dollars annually on training.
“Good companies are doing completely the opposite,” he said. “We train people to stay but be prepared for them to leave. . . . [We’re] going to do whatever we can to keep them.”
Solis, earlier in the program, agreed that jobs need to be created and America needs a more robust economy that challenges us to look at new areas.
She pointed to the health care field as an area burgeoning with new jobs. “Health care is growing,” she said. “That’s one of the areas I see as recession-proof. I’m not supposed to say that,” she joked.
Yet, she realizes that the bottom line is job creation. “But above everything,” she added, “we don’t see enough jobs being created. . . . That’s still a tough road for us.”
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