Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fixing America's Job Application, Training, and Job Placement Monster

Today U.S. firms announced they are eliminating at least another 43,000 jobs. Each month nearly 500,000 jobs seem to vanish from the U.S. economy. Yet, many politicians and news outlets seem to be trying to direct our attention to all kinds of other problems like health care, terrorism, and Wall Street. Sure they all mention the job losses but after the numbers and company names are given the story seems to abruptly end.

Obama on Corcoran Gallery 077801

President Obama has clearly stated that job creation, or at least stopping job losses will be a priority for his administration. The amount of money Washington is talking about spending in attempts to jump-start the economy is huge. That latest figures put that number at the better part of one trillion dollars!

One major issue no leader or news source seems to want to address in detail is the fractured employment application, training, and placement process.

U.S. Capitol, Washington DC 077583

Ask anyone who has been hunting for a job about the problems with the process. Talk to anyone who has been unemployed for more than a few weeks and they will tell you all about this huge problem. It all relates to three major areas of serious national concern, except there seems to be little concern for any of these three areas.

  1. Job Location and Application Process
  2. Career Training and Re-training
  3. Job Placement or Hiring

Before going into the details and associated problems with each of these important job-related areas, I want to state one undeniable fact.

There absolutely needs be a better way to get millions of people back working again.

Avocado and MacBook 077481

Our country has created some of the best computers and computer software ever invented. While there may be a shortage of scientists there is no shortage of human resources professionals. There is probably more than one computer for every man, woman, and child in this nation. Surely we can put all these important pieces of the puzzle together to create a better, more efficient way for people to find a job, perhaps receive some additional training, and ultimately get hired.

That is the goal of this research project. In the days ahead there will be an examination of each step in the current job application process. There will be solutions offered to many important questions about getting hired. Finally, there will be an outline and description of what a vastly improved job application and hiring process should look like.

NOTE: Most of this project stands completed on my desktop right now, but it exists on multiple pieces of paper and computer documents. If you are currently unemployed, please continue to apply for jobs the old way. There may be little chance that any organization, public or private, actually wants to improve the job application process. I am doing this project with the slight hope that perhaps some group will become interested in the actual process of getting millions of people back working again. Thank you for your patience.

I. Job Location and Application Process

There are private job search sites out there like Careerbuilder, Monster, and SimplyHired. Most newspapers have some sort of employment section. There's Craiglist, Snagajob, and many other aggregators of potential work opportunities. At the government level, each state along with the federal government and many individual agencies have thousands of web pages dedicated to job listings and the job application process. Most private corporations have a "Careers" section hidden somewhere on their home page. On top of all this most employment counselors will tell you the majority of open jobs are not listed anywhere, you have to know somebody to find out about the vacancy.

No matter how you find about a job opening you might possibly qualify for, your uphill struggle is only just about to begin.

To begin each on-line job application you will usually find it necessary to create a new account with a different web site. Applicants then must begin to learn how to use each employment web site, because no two job application web sites are exactly alike, not nearly. Some companies require the applicant to use Microsoft Internet Explorer, but only a few actually tell you this important fact. Many job sites are really just a back door to another web site. That other web site requires you to create a different account. Sometimes there is almost no clue provided to the name of the company you are actually applying to work for. Quite a few job applications will never even be seen by a human, computers read them, look for a few important terms and toss the rest of the applications in the Recycle Bin.

If and when you wade through all the web pages required to complete one job application don't expect to ever hear about that application or job again. Most web sites seem to eat up your job application and provide very little or even no details about what might happen next. If you are lucky you will get a confirmation e-mail saying that you application was successfully completed. If you are unlucky you will start to receive SPAM messages about fake jobs or jobs that have nothing to do with the one you thought you were applying for.

Now you are all ready to begin this mind-numbing process all over again with the next possible job.

Cover Letters

There are still many employers that want you to write a cover letter and mail or e-mail that letter along with your completed application or résumé. This is an important step you will want to be extremely careful about. One small error anywhere in that cover letter will get result in your application being tossed into the garbage.

II. Career Training and Re-training

There are still some jobs available in most communities, no matter how dire the situation may seem. One big issue is that the remaining jobs require a very specific set of skills and experience, with no exceptions indicated by most employers

Tom at Suitland HS 000170

III. Job Placement or Hiring

Would you consent to being interviewed for a job through the Internet? Would you be willing to talk with an actual human resources person at an actual company, using your computer? What about doing this face-to-face, with a webcam? What if almost the entire hiring process could be done through a voice-activated or even visual interface, with very little typing required?

That is how many people will be hired for jobs in the years ahead. Despite any fears you might have about doing things that way it is going to happen soon or later.

In this next section there will be small and large improvement to all the different steps involved in the job placement, interview, and hiring process.

Creating New Jobs

It is also very important for us to identify significant areas and ways to create new and useful jobs for the unemployed. In this section we will examine many different places in private and public organizations where new positions would make the most sense.

Public and Private Education Initiatives

There seems to be widespread consensus that America lacks skilled employees in certain key fields. Computer scientists, math or science teachers, nurses, and general practioners are just a few occupations that immediately come to mind. Many business managers can also point out the need for new skills among existing employees. Local community colleges report a deluge of people applying for software training and computer courses. Rebuilding America's roads, bridges, and other public works will require armies of skilled tradesmen. If there really are shortages of people with these skills then these shortages need to be viewed as opportunities to create new, long-term positions for courseware developers, educators, trainers, administrators and all the other people required to operate productive schools.

It is obvious that some skilled positions require years of training. To achieve the goal of filling these and many other critical-need positions we need to begin the education process soon. Now is the perfect time.

What about Food Inspectors and other empty Government positions?

Military bases, intelligence agencies, and their contractors have thousands of jobs available. They cannot find the people they need to hire for these jobs. They just don't have enough American applicants they can trust. It is all a matter of who has the top-secret security clearances required for these jobs. So all those jobs related to national security remain unfilled, year after year.

There is also a backlog of people waiting for their security clearance to come through.

Many other people that started working at intelligence agencies after 2001 have quit. They got tired of the bureaucracy that kept them from doing their jobs properly.

Unemployment offices across the nation are understaffed. They are falling critically behind with the task of processing new claims for unemployment benefits. Job placement counselors are in short supply. Yet, they also are continuing to lay off staff at unemployment offices in many states.

There is a salmonella outbreak spreading across the nation. The FDA admits they do not inspect every food plant. In fact, they do not require plants that discover contamination to even report this issue. It is obvious there simply are not enough food inspectors working at the FDA.

The U.S. Army does not have enough people to check the hearing of soldiers.

The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not have enough examiners or training to detect scandals like the Madoff Ponzi scheme or Lehman Brothers failure.

The U.S. State Department needs more people in the foreign service.

The Peace Corps has fallen short on their goals for recruitment.

Many school districts across the nation do not have the teachers they need to teach the students enrolled. They are still continuing to lay off teachers due to budget problems.

All of these issues are real and they are preventing people from getting back to work at important jobs that really need to be done. These are government jobs, not auto factory or retail or airline jobs. They are all empty and yet they need to be filled, in many cases public safety is compromised by keeping these jobs vacant.

Many U.S. citizens are in need of jobs. At the same time it is apparent we need thousands of additional workers like the food inspectors or unemployement office workers, at the state and federal level. How about hiring and training the unemployed to fill these jobs? That sounds like a very wise use of a small part of the $1 trillion financial stimulus package. Or shall we keep giving the money to bankers so they can spend millions redecorating their offices and buying private jets?

Realistic Retirement, For the Good of the Nation

As a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, I do appreciate the contributions of head football coach Joe Paterno. I really do. I am also very grateful for the contributions of many U.S. Senators including Massachusett's senator Ted Kennedy and West Virginia's Robert Byrd. There are very elderly college professors that provide us with some of the best educational experiences possible, but there are some that need to consider retirement. These workers and thousands of others in their late 70s and 80s need to seriously consider letting other people take over their roles.

I love and respect senior citizens. I spend more time with them than most people I know. I certainly am not speaking to the 70-year old man or woman that needs that job at Wal-Mart or McDonalds in order to supplement a meager Social Security income. I am suggesting that seniors that have made a significant amount of money and could easily afford to retire do just that.

Certainly they should stay around long enough to train the person or persons that will fill their shoes, if necessary. Maybe the next best place for their unique services is in the expanded education programs mentioned above. But now is an opportune time for them to contribute their jobs to the rapidly shrinking pool of positions available. Obviously someone already employed will likely get the positions held by such respected elders in any organization. Another person will get the vacancy that the new coach or senator leaves behind. Finally, perhaps even far down the organization chart, new jobs will open up. This is the way viable firms operate.

It should not be left up to governments to mandate new retirement ages or enact any new laws to require people to leave their jobs at any particular age. The individuals themselves should consider the positive or negative benefits and proceed with the best course of action for them, their employers, and their society.

References and Links

Washington Post Article

Federal government jobs


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