How can we solve the growing labor shortages and get foreign workers into US jobs where they are needed?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-There are tens of thousands of businesses across the U.S. hanging out help wanted signs for technical and professional jobs that are going unfilled. We simply don’t have the talent base in our native workforce to fill them all, and it will be decades before we’ve got enough workers trained to meet the need…by which time the opportunity will be gone.

But we have to control the flow of immigrants into our country, right?  We can’t just throw open the doors! However, our own system is overloaded and simply can’t process applicants fast enough.

The US Food and Drug Administration has an arrangement whereby it will accept drugs for sale in the U.S. that have been approved by carefully selected regulatory bodies in other countries. I think we should explore something similar for our immigration policy.  If someone has been deemed fit by, say, France, Japan or the UK, they get a pass into our country.  Someone far smarter than me would have to figure out all the details, but that sort of arrangement makes sense to me!

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent-I think the REAL question here should be why aren’t we working to get Americans into these positions? Don’t take that the wrong way. I think we should have educated talented foreigners in our work force and in our country. But, when our unemployment remains high, and there are so many Americans who are able to but can’t find work I think the focus should be getting them into jobs before we work to get other countries’ citizens here.

Again, the real question is how? College is ridiculously expensive. Maybe we should offer better aid for certain majors? That could persuade younger generations to major in Computer Science rather than Art. Because, let’s be honest…how much can you REALLY do with an art major?

Second suggestion I have is offer incentives for businesses to sponsor or train for the jobs they want to fill. Maybe the incentives are tax breaks, or something along those lines. That would be a good way for businesses not only to have employees train how THEY want them to be but also a way for more people to enter the work-force instead of jumping straight into debt with college…kind of like a work-study program.

On another note, like I touched on earlier, I think schools need a change. We don’t need dance majors, and arts majors. Minors… sure go for it. But why rack up all that debt for a degree you can’t do much with? I think your ability to borrow/be granted should be directly tied to the amount/quality of jobs you can get when you graduate. Have a more in-demand degree you can get better grants and loans. Want to major in art? You need to pony up the money out of your own pocket.

 

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Demographic trends tell us that as baby boomers retire at an increasing rate over the next decade or so, new workers will be needed to replace those workers as well as to fill new jobs that are created over that time. Since this country is essentially at full employment (a 4.0% unemployment rate), the logical source of those new workers are immigrants. Although it’s true that we have a substantial underemployed labor force, plus many discouraged workers who’ve stopped looking for work, the most significant labor need is to find skilled and specialized workers for science and technology positions.

The current border strife about illegal immigration highlights the need to improve our immigration policy. Congress needs to act decisively and address the issue with sweeping reforms of the system. Expand the administrative end by hiring more people to screen and process work visa applications. Hire more people to perform background checks on applicants to ensure they don’t have criminal records or associate with known criminals or terrorist groups. Streamline the process so less paperwork is filled out, filed, and shuffled back and forth before a decision is made.

All these reforms will take time as well as money in the form of higher taxes. To convince Americans that an increase of immigrant workers won’t be dangerous for our country, which will make it easier to levy necessary taxes to pay for the reforms, an ironclad guarantee of safety is needed. My solution is to enlist business owners who need workers in a program of sponsorship for foreign workers.

This sponsorship will include the business putting up a certain amount of money per worker as a bond similar to a bail bond. If an imported worker commits any crime or act of terrorism, the business owner becomes liable for the actions of that worker, forfeits the bond amount, and may be prosecuted for the particular crime committed by that worker as an aider or abettor. Even if a worker commits a petty crime, the business owner becomes partly responsible. A system can be instituted whereby a violent act such as terrorism or murder results in complete loss of the bond money plus a proportional amount of jail time for the sponsor. Lesser crimes such as DUIs or petty theft would result in lesser fines and consequences.

This idea shifts the responsibility of vetting the immigrant to the business rather than the government but maintains accountability. Additionally, companies that participate will put these new workers on their payrolls, pay competitive wages, and collect and pay all relevant taxes. This will reduce the number of businesses that hire illegal workers off the books, pay them slave wages, and force them to work under inhumane conditions with no recourse.

 

To mitigate the financial burden on businesses, the sponsorship can be for a set period, such as two or five years. At the end of that time, if the worker has a clean criminal record, the business is released from its sponsorship obligation and is no longer responsible for the workers actions. The company can choose to either retain the worker or let them go, and the worker can choose to look for another job on equal footing with native-born workers.

 

A system like this allows employers who are the most desperate for workers to address their needs directly rather than dealing with the obsolete immigration policy we now have or waiting for Congress to make changes that will alleviate the labor issue.

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