"We are standing up a task force for women in trucking, knowing we have got 50 percent of the population, but not yet 50 percent of the work force," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a Transport Topics interview. "This suggests there are a lot of people out there who could be great truckers who have not been invited or, for whatever reason, have not taken an interest in these jobs."
Perhaps one of the greatest factors plaguing the nation's labor pool—across all industries—are systemic racial issues within the educational, law enforcement and legal systems.
Take incarceration as one example. The NAACP reports that Blacks are disproportionately incarcerated—they are five times more likely to be imprisoned over whites.
At the same time, more than 50,000 legal restrictions nationwide prohibit those with arrest and conviction records from accessing jobs, housing and educational opportunities. That's particularly problematic when it's considered that unemployment is the No. 1 factor for recidivism.
This also is why second-chance hiring programs can make a difference for companies and communities: They tap an important labor source.
Immigrants also are critical for deep and flourishing labor pools.
"High-skilled immigration professionals fill critical roles across the country," Jay Timmons, CEO and president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said in a November 2020 statement. "You think about researchers and scientists and technicians. Workers for these roles are in very high demand, and H1-B visas and employment-based immigration are one way manufacturers fill these immediate needs while we work to strengthen our domestic talent pipeline."
At that time, Timmons said manufacturing had lost 1.3 million jobs due to the pandemic and that only half of those had been filled, leaving 460,000 manufacturing openings nationwide.
"Legal immigration programs are absolutely critical for that work force development, and to allow manufacturers to grow their operations in the United States, and also expand their global footprint," he said of addressing the situation.
All of these statistics are snapshots, barely showing much larger, deeply-rooted issues dotting our socioeconomic and political landscapes. And they are far from the only factors impacting the labor shortages faced nationwide.
Still, they cannot be discounted.
If our businesses, communities and country are going to thrive, all of these issues must be thoughtfully and purposefully addressed.