July 30th, 2012

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As Tables Continue to Turn on Outsourcing, Will U.S. Workforce Keep Up?

talking outsourcing

The onset of the Olympic Games in London may, at least temporarily, shift media focus away from the issue of outsourcing American manufacturing jobs that has dominated the news cycle of late. Don’t mistake the absence of news coverage for resolution of the issue, however; with the latest monthly unemployment figures from the U.S. Department of Labor set to be released later this week, you can be sure it will return to its position as a major talking point as we hurtle toward national, state, and municipal elections in November.

As a former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich knows a thing or two about big-picture economics; and kudos to him for being one of the few pundits to not raise his index finger in blame toward one candidate or another. His July 25 Op-Ed for The Baltimore Sun entitled, “Romney, Obama are both wrong on outsourcing,” effectively argues that the whole debate about why American jobs were sent overseas in the first place is a distraction from what it will take to change it in a way that aids U.S. economic recovery. After spending the first few paragraphs comparing the wages of U.S. workers with Asian and European counterparts, Reich concludes:

Outsourcing is irrelevant. The way we get good jobs back is with a national strategy to make Americans more competitive — retooling our schools, getting more of our young people through college or giving them a first-class technical education, remaking our infrastructure, and thereby guaranteeing that a large share of Americans add significant value to the global economy.

Journalist Parija Kavilanz seems to agree with Reich. Last week, the senior writer for CNNMoney.com addressed the gap between skilled U.S. laborers and manufacturing jobs from several angles. States-level cuts to the corporate tax rate and other incentives are attracting U.S. companies back to American shores and enticing foreign-based companies to do the same, Kavilanz says in one article. In another article by Kavilanz published the same day, managers claim the skilled labor pool required to keep up with the new orders coming in just isn’t available.

Later in the week, Kavilanz filed a story with a headline certain to catch the eye of jobseekers, “A $100,000 Factory Job. What’s Uncool About That?” While the people interviewed curiously fault pop culture portrayals of manufacturing rather than the real-life circumstances that have contributed to the industry’s demise in the U.S., the message that one can earn a more-than-satisfactory wage by pursuing a career in the manufacturing sector is loud and clear.

As workforce training catches up to meet the new manufacturing need, economic theory regarding job creation indicates a slew of other jobs will be created. Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice, stated in a July 25 blog post that there won’t be a challenge finding trained laborers to fill positions in facility management if employers look to people with disabilities and the organizations that provide work for them through contract services. Halligan speaks to a number of experts to formulate her five compelling reasons for hiring individuals with disabilities, which is then deftly summarized by Vic Wursten of PRIDE Industries:

The fact is that people with disabilities are assets, not liabilities, to an organization and its bottom line. In reality, people with disabilities don’t cost more to employ, are proven to meet or exceed challenges, have lower turnover and relate well to customers and co-workers.

Let’s hope the economic recovery provides more companies with the opportunity to discover these truths for themselves.


Image by Mark Hillary, used under its Creative Commons license.

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