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Labor Shortages Are No Longer A Cut And Dry Problem

labor shortages

Labor shortages throughout the horticultural industry have been a continual problem to contend with over the last several years. The global pandemic has exacerbated the issue not only in the field of horticulture but many others as well.

There has been much speculation as to the root cause of the continuing labor shortages in the horticultural industry, from a lack of interest in the field to low wages to the physical demands required of workers.

But a recent article in The Washington Post has a much different theory as noted in the article’s title – It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America.

Washington Post reporter Heather Long says, “There is also growing evidence — both anecdotal and in surveys — that a lot of people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak has had a dramatic psychological effect on workers, and people are reassessing what they want to do and how they want to work.”

In early 2021, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey in which it was discovered that 66% of the unemployed had “seriously considered” changing their field of work, a far more significant percentage than during the Great Recession. Fast forward to October 2021, and it seems many are still pondering their next move in the workforce, with a record-breaking 4.3 million Americans quitting their jobs in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Even manufacturing and construction – which have seen incredible growth during the pandemic – saw weak hiring, with manufacturing losing 18,000 jobs and construction holding flat.

Robert Reich, the former U.S. Secretary of Labor for the Clinton Administration, recently told TIME magazine, “[Employees] don’t want to return to backbreaking or boring, low wage, sh-t jobs. Workers are burned out. They’re fed up. They’re fried. In the wake of so much hardship, and illness and death during the past year, they’re not going to take it anymore.”

Many reasons can cause labor shortages. But our recent global pandemic has changed the mindset and behavior of millions of qualified workers who are now exploring career options outside of their usual comfort zone. 

While increased wages and benefits can certainly be a powerful motivator for hiring, Long says it best – “The past year has fundamentally changed the economy and what many Americans want in their working life.”

For individuals, they may need to consider additional education and training to transition from jobs they are qualified for into positions requiring new skillsets and even certifications.

For businesses, the reality of this evolving workforce may require them to create a better trajectory for career growth, more desirable working conditions, and even automating more of their operation to keep up with demand.

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