Rotary hears about labor issues at meeting on Tuesday

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Georgia Commissioner of Labor, Mark Butler, addressed the Rotary Club on Tuesday and gave some insight into how to interpret unemployment rates announced each month. He began by saying the numbers don’t really matter any more.

Specifically, he addressed the labor market, what jobs exist and the available workforce defined as the number of persons actively seeking jobs—the key word being actively. Are employers creating jobs? He estimates the number of jobs available locally is about 200, and by expanding outside the county it is 500 job openings. He said those numbers account for the known advertised jobs, adding that not all jobs are advertised online, so the number could be higher.

The big question remains how many are ready for employment in the jobs that do exist?

Most jobs require a two-year degree, or higher, or certification of training for jobs in the trades, welding, plumbing, electrical and more.

Then he addressed the basic skills required by asking, “How many of you employers have had those come in for a job interview wearing their pajamas?”

It is important for workers to have basic people skills, communication skills, physical ability, problem solving, organization building and maintaining effective relationships. In a word—Team Work is described as the number one issue employers are seeking in applicants today. Many employers have even said if they are brought someone trainable—someone who is on time and can pass the drug test they will hire them and do the training themselves.

Asked if he was referring to the millennial generation, Butler replied, “We see it all the way across the board of all ages.”  He did then speak of the coming generation behind the present one as being one to watch. They are different. They have watched their parents work and struggle with depression issues and says, “These kids are motivated. They see the work world differently. “

Customer service is a big issue. He noted that recruiters of companies seeking to relocate to a town or city will go from business to business to evaluate the level of customer service. If they find it bad in restaurants and retailers they will move on.

Butler said his department is expanding programs to help employers address these issues. He compared it to building the proper foundation to support growth.

Another equally serious question raised was, “How to solve the issue of people who don’t want to work?”

He related stories heard from employers who tried to offer promotions and wage increases to some of their employees; but were turned down by those who said if they accepted that it would cause them to lose some benefits. “They will be stuck forever where they are,” he predicted.

He indicated this was not an issue that a national program could address; but it must be locally addressed. He worked with a food stamp program experiment that identified six counties in the state. One certain population (single, no dependents, able bodied and unemployed people) were identified and targeted for the study.

“We did it and had great success. When you tell them we will cut off your food stamps, they go to work.”

When asked about the immigration issue and how it fits in, Butler indicated it needs to be reformed and revamped. He noted that the farm worker programs are very expensive when you include all the things the farmers need to provide, such as housing, transportation to and from their home country, etc.

Mark Butler became Georgia’s ninth Commissioner of Labor on January 10, 2011, as the first Republican elected to head the Georgia Department of Labor.