Can’t find work? Maybe you’re part of the “Unserviced Workforce”

I would like to introduce Stuart Mease of Virginia Tech University to all of you. Stuart is a member of the {grow} community and flat-out one of the brightest guys I know. He made a name for himself with creative applications of social media to economic development and I’m pleased to present this timely guest post today:

This recent headline in The Wall Street Journal caught my eye: “Some firms struggle to hire despite unemployment.”

So let’s dispel this unemployment myth right now. There are jobs out there and plenty of them … unless you’re part of the Unserviced Workforce.

That may be an unfamiliar term to you.  There are three distinct job seekers in today’s labor market – white collar professional workers, blue collar skilled workers, and the Unserviced Workforce.

Unemployed white collar professional workers are being serviced by private third-party groups (headhunters). Their skill sets may be in high demand and companies are paying a premium for their services. Professions such as health care, engineering, information technology, and accounting are all in high demand regardless of region.

The blue collar skilled workers are being serviced by public third-party agencies (community colleges, workforce investment boards, employment commissions, staffing agencies, etc.). Typically their skill sets are also in high demand because companies try train a constant pool of candidates for these jobs. Professions such as manufacturing, trades, technicians are all in high demand.

The Unserviced Workforce is caught in the middle. Neither the public nor private sector is helping this group find jobs.  This segment is characterized by younger people with potential or upside; has some  higher education; good (but not billable) skill sets, and are looking for a “professional” job paying a salary between $25k-$50k, depending on the region. This is the critical mass of knowledge workers who are underemployed, over-educated, or who are leaving smaller regions for larger metropolitan areas in search of better employment opportunities.

Here are seven possible outcomes for the Unserviced Workforce:

1) Acquire new skills and move up

This will require continuing education and a commitment to the acquisition of demanded skills.

2) Humble yourself and move down

This will require accepting a lower standard of living and the realization that there is a surplus of people with the same skills sets in the market.

3) Start a business

This will require taking risk by starting small while still looking for a job, going to school, or working a platform job, and identifying government programs to assist you.

4) Move laterally between jobs in the Unserviced Workforce

These people will most likely not make an investment in continuing education or start a business. They may think they are better than blue collar jobs. Typically younger, these workers will bounce from job to job and never “get ahead.”

5) Remain unemployed

These people are still not humbled or motivated to get out of the unserviced workforce because they are waiting for the economy to turnaround and/or family/spouse supported.

6) Leave the region

These people believe “it’s not me” but the place I live that’s the problem. They are typically unattached or younger and are more capable of leaving or are forced to leave due to the severity of the regional economy.

7) Retire

These people are focused on years of work experience rather than result-based metrics. They are frustrated by perceived age discrimination in the recruiting process. They will re-enter workforce at a later time, perhaps working only part-time. Their decision depends on their nest egg and lifestyle.

If you are a job seeker and are reading this post, I challenge you to get out of the Unserviced Workforce by seeking Outcomes #1, #2 or #3. Inaction will leave you in Outcomes #4 and #5 and poor attitudes results in Outcomes #6 and #7.

There are jobs out there.  No public or private-sector program is going to create a job market equilibrium. It’s solely up to YOU — the job seeker — to stay out of the Unserviced Workforce.

Stuart Mease’s mission is “connecting people” to create mutually beneficial relationships. He is currently serving as the Director of Undergraduate Career Services in the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @stuartmease.

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