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Could work, would work

GAYS MILLS - Jobs, jobs, jobs.   It’s a recurrent and default theme among politicians of every stripe.  There is a constant appeal to and reverence for “hard-working Americans.” Witness the sort of embarrassing contortions the Badger State has gone through to woo and win the Asian technology giant Foxconn.  

And does anyone else see the irony in the very name composed of the words “fox” and “conn?” The reported 13,000 (lucky number?) jobs that this enterprise may potentially provide has people excited, some for and some against. The $3 billion that we will be using to encourage these jobs, money that we didn’t know we had, works out to around $230,000 per job. Business people wonder where the workers will come from.

There’s a line in a song by Merle Haggard that I like. Like a good lyric is designed to do, it sticks in my mind.  The song is ‘Are the Good Times Really Over for Good?’ and the line is “when a man who could work still would.” Ah, yes, country music, otherwise known as three chords and the truth. That nugget of hard-won wisdom applies to us today. If a person wants to work today, there are jobs available. Many jobs go begging.

The fact is we are close to full employment, back from the doldrums of the Great Recession. Workers of any kind are difficult for employers to find and harder to keep these days. Blame some of that on the millions of baby boomers who are now retiring and the fact that subsequent generations don’t have the numbers or the skills to fill all the jobs.

According to a recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal, a job fair in Madison had 42 employers offering some 600 jobs. The event wound up with only 46 jobs being filled. It’s true that many jobs that are available are relatively low wage jobs without many benefits, and in those kinds of jobs there is lots of turnover. The kind of jobs that would support a family and offer more security usually require some advanced training or skill.

Regardless of the job, employers are seeking people with “employability skills.” Such things as being at work every day, and on time, being dependable, and having good people skills are always in demand. People from the Midwest have long been known for their “work ethic.”  It’s as if we all grew up on farms doing chores since an early age. The farm background chore part is no longer true, of course, but the myth endures.

One place that people are really feeling a lack of workers right now is anywhere in the wake of the recent hurricanes. There is a huge need for cleanup and reconstruction in those widespread devastated areas, further exacerbated by a lack of building materials.

Hopefully, anyone who could work, still would.