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Guest Column: Where are the workers?

By Keith Tucker

Special to The Enterprise

Everywhere you look are help-wanted signs. So why is there such a lack of people to fill these positions? It’s a combination of factors, that when taken together, multiply the shortfall effect. First, the pandemic sent millions of employed souls home. When it came time to go back to work, a great number had come to realize they didn’t really want to return. Then, the demand for goods and services that was stifled during Covid rushed back like the proverbial dam that broke open. 

So, companies needed to up production quickly. Then the government was printing money and giving it to people like throwing candy during a parade. About this time, some of our best, most-experienced workers started reaching retirement age. The stock market run-up around 2020 meant people’s net worth shot up enough to enable even more people to retire. All these factors combined to create a perfect storm of help-wanted signs everywhere. So, what is the answer?  

I have a solution, but no one wants to hear it. The reasons no one does are fear, prejudice and a lack of understanding. We have a real crisis at the southern border. So, this would not solve that, but it would be a start. Take the best and brightest from the border. Put them in accelerated-English classes. Charge companies a fee to provide them with trained quality workers who are legal and ready to work. I know right now two farming operations that are getting workers from South Africa. I can tell you, it’s a few thousand dollars to bring these workers here. But they speak English and fit in well. After looking, wages are pretty low in that country. I learned they get paid in ZAR, but when here, they get American dollars. They make at least $14 an hour while working in this country. There is no minimum wage there, but companies are expected to pay at least the equivalent of $1.30 per hour. Back to our problem. 

The boom that would follow from providing housing and jobs for the ones we train here would result in more tax revenue to all levels of government. Instead of being a drain on the system, it would be an asset. One positive result of this action would be to help reduce inflationary pressure on prices, because of the added available workforce. I know a lot of you will disagree with my analysis. My answer is this: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

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