Sunday, September 02, 2012

Labor Day - How Work Has Changed

The first Monday in September is Labor Day and for over 100 years, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

As we are about to celebrate Labor Day Labor on Monday, September 3, 2012 it is a good time to observe how the workforce of today is so vastly different from the workforce of the twentieth century.

One of the biggest trends is the evolution away from a life-long relationship between business and the American worker. From the business view point employers needs change due to technology, innovation, globalization, reorganization, and consolidation. The youngest members of America’s labor force tend to have a different perspective from other generations on the employer/employee relationship with a willingness to change positions to learn more skills, diversify their experience, remain competitive in the labor market and while doing so, place a high importance on the need for balance within their professional and personal lives.

Another major change is the skill set needed by businesses from days passed to now. To meet these needs we see the introduction of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum into elementary and middle schools. Incorporating apprenticeships and on-the-job training has become vital for today’s workforce development. Lifelong learning will result in the most marketable and thus economically secure American Workforce and the future is bright for those who are willing to invested their time and money in improving their skills, hoping to capitalize on the economic recovery. Although it is currently an employer’s market, businesses understand the importance to retention, profitability and efficiency lies in continually improving the skill sets of their existing labor force.

As we continue to move toward economic recovery, some of our recent post-secondary training graduates are poised and eager to return to work. Businesses may get a head start in their recovery by sponsoring a recent graduate in an internship. Funds exist to pay the graduate and allow the business to train a potential new employee to be a productive member of their workforce. These internships sponsored through Southwest Florida Works provide a 520-hour paid work experience for graduates. The business has the opportunity to teach and mentor the graduate to their way of doing business and at the end of thirteen weeks, it is hoped that business has developed the person to be a valuable addition to the company and thus hires the individual.

Another option to assist businesses and job seekers is on-the-job training. All too often the business community is looking for a perfect fit and thus jobs go unfilled for lengthy periods of time. But businesses have the opportunity to offset the cost of hiring someone who has some of the skills but not all of the skills needed to be a productive member of their workforce.

By reimbursing a business 50-90% of the new employees’ wages while training a new hire, Southwest Florida Works hopes to encourage more businesses to hire sooner rather than later and thus help more of Southwest Florida’s workforce celebrate this and future Labor Days.

bv Joe Paterno
Executive Director
Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board

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