A response to the CT labor shortage

Plato famously wrote: “Our need will be the true creator”, which over time became the English proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention”. As the post-COVID workplace evolves, remote work continues to expand its popular status with employers and the American workforce. But it will soon be recognized as one of the assets that will help our state overcome the worst labor shortage in our history. Although the shortage is a national challenge, it will soon reach the crisis stage in Connecticut and may be with us for decades to come.

Why is Connecticut in more danger than most other states? Connecticut’s workforce is struggling to grow and is smaller today than it was 10 years ago. This comes as the state’s population, the sixth-oldest in the country, nears retirement. Although slightly improved, the state is struggling to retain our young and recently graduated workers. These and other factors have meant that there are twice as many job openings as there are unemployed in the state. These challenges are structural in nature and cannot be reversed in the short term. They trended in the wrong direction for years without anyone really understanding their meaning.

Still, Connecticut must do what is necessary to minimize the economic damage from an ongoing labor shortage. Given the magnitude of this challenge, Connecticut’s response must be multifaceted and conducted in campaign mode. The public needs to understand, employers need to be involved and the education and training system needs to be prepared for a quick response. We need to retain talent, upskill those we already have, and make creative arrangements to curb retirement.

Teleworking can be the cornerstone of this effort and a vehicle that will add tens of thousands to our workforce. Just think of everyone who could benefit – parents with young children, people with disabilities, older workers seeking part-time projects, those lacking transportation, and so many others. You can all help meet the need.

Teleworking offers employers the opportunity to diversify their talent pool. Aside from employment disciplines that require your presence, employers can think without boundaries when looking for talent. Remote work can open opportunities for a globally competitive workforce and reduce reliance on expensive H1-B visas to secure talent. Remote work is more than an altruistic endeavor or employee benefits; It’s a whole new way of collaborating and doing business. In doing so, employers find more conscious and meaningful employee interactions, more employee engagement, and greater employee retention.

Technology sometimes reduces the number of employees, but it always improves competitiveness. Connecticut needs to incentivize employers to encourage investment in technology, especially now. I suggest the same for established workers. Anyone with greater potential to be more productive needs to be empowered. Our aging workforce is an asset – it offers experience, knowledge and strong social skills. They must be viewed as part of the solution, not part of the problem. Remote work training programs for employers and employees should be a standard feature of state programs to attract employers to our state.

The WorkPlace has been rooted in teleworking research for years. We will play a role in Connecticut’s efforts to integrate telecommuting into all aspects of our state workforce. We will work with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Strategies and the Department of Labor to further promote remote working among Connecticut employers and citizens

In response to the dynamic challenges in the labor market, Governor Ned Lamont and the legislature reorganized the state’s labor system. The design breaks down silos, embraces technology and creates new levels of collaboration. We still have work to do, but remote working can make up for the decades of neglect that caused this labor crisis.

Joseph Carbone is President and CEO of The WorkPlace, based in Bridgeport.

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