For the past 15 months, we have focused on our business community and how we can best keep them from faltering and depleting the engine of our economy. The Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce has 2,000+ businesses as members, a significant portion of which have under 50 employees, and so a good portion of our time has been spent assisting them through funding applications, loans, acquisition of personal protection equipment and navigating safety protocols. The effort has been well worth it. But just as these businesses are rebounding, flexing their entrepreneurial muscles, and practicing nimble and innovative salesmanship, they struggle to recruit individuals with the ambition and commitment to work. Some labor analysts contend that multiple stimulus payments and enhanced unemployment benefits are responsible for enabling many former employees to withdraw from the workplace and remain unemployed. National job vacancies have soared 50% this year, so there’s clearly a disconnect between what labor is needed and what’s available. Are we seeing a resistance to work and the self-respect and financial self-sufficiency it can provide? Are we experiencing a crisis in hiring that will deter an economic rebound?
Presently, there are thousands of open positions throughout Washoe County, making it hard to stop by a local merchant, coffee shop, restaurant or nail salon where there isn’t a “help wanted” sign. And it will only get harder and more competitive for organizations to meet their staffing needs if individuals stay out of the workforce when they are needed most. Our community offers a plethora of free educational resources, paid on-the-job training opportunities, paid apprenticeships, and free or low-cost classes for upgrading current job skills, but even these programs lack sufficient enrollees. Even as federal funding pours into Nevada to prepare residents for STEAM-related jobs and needed upskilling, the people haven’t materialized to take advantage of career development and open positions. There is empathy for the many who have retreated from the workplace, overwhelmed with the multiple tasks of working from home, duties with childcare and schooling, and concerns about the virus. There is also empathy for many who have lost jobs and lack the technological skills to find new opportunities or those who don’t know where to go for training assistance. As a result, we must band together — employers, educational resources and training programs — to find new and innovative methods to reengage individuals in meaningful work, to confirm the dignity of a paycheck and the added benefits of insurance and paid time off. Employers should look to recruit beyond traditional core geographies, consider flexible scheduling, and eliminate recruitment roadblocks that limit minorities, older individuals, veterans, out-of-school youth, and broader pools of talent from applying for work. Not everyone will land a fulfilling job nor one that pays what it should or is deserved. But the ladder is wide enough for everyone who wants to climb it, and the Chamber of Commerce is ready to connect those who desire a job with the businesses that want to hire, train, develop, promote and reward its workers. Our economic engine runs on the determination of people and their work ethic. We need to restore these traits in order for our economy to rebound and sustain itself. “Commerce Matters” is a monthly Voices column in the NNBW authored by Ann Silver, CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce. Reach her for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.