Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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Defining the Skills Gap - Part Two
By Barbara Bray    April 21, 2010 -- 01:09 PM

There ARE highly qualified people AVAILABLE right now -- collecting unemployment checks. Consider that one of the top careers of the unemployed are tech workers. These are responsible and very talented people who were laid off for H1B visa workers working for 30% of what U.S. workers were paid or even less.

It started during Reaganís administration when it was put in place where workers could be hired as W2 workers working as contractors not paid any benefits. So many of these talented and qualified workers were not counted in employment statistics because they were considered temporary or contract workers. Many were hired for three months so they would not receive health care benefits.

Those that did work over three months were forced by companies to work with an intermediary who might be charging $100+/hour less social security, taxes and any profit. The contractor (temporary worker on a W2 status) was paid $50+/hour. However, they were also deducted taxes and social security on what they received from the intermediary. Somehow they were charged twice for taxes and social security.

Companies then looked for ways to cut down costs more by bringing in H1B visa workers or outsourcing the work to other countries. It was all about the bottom line. The middle class was getting soaked slowly. Many of these highly qualified workers (over 55+) once were paid a good wage. Companies were looking for ways to cut costs and now the government gave them an easy out.

Small and large companies used the mantra that there just were not any skilled technical workers so they HAD to outsource or bring in qualified people with visas -- at a much lower rate.

There ARE many very qualified misplaced workers right now collecting unemployment checks - many who have lost their homes to foreclosure. Some are juggling multiple jobs outside of their expertise to cover their costs. There may not be a shortage of American workers to fill technical jobs if we just look at the people collecting unemployment now or who are working in small contract jobs. This information is being misrepresented from companies asking Congress to raise the cap on H1B visas.

Letís count the number of older tech workers who I call "Digital Pioneers" ready and willing to work right now. [article]

Consider valuing these technical and professional people who really did not want to retire because they love their work. They have so much to give back but they need to be valued and paid what they are worth. Seniors and many of these unemployed workers are struggling because they have spent their retirement accounts, lost their savings and homes, and impacted their relationships and health. We need to look at the 55+ age group in a different way. This is the age group that can fill the gap.
  • Take into account life and work experience as a value-added.
  • Use these people as mentors and managers. They have the critical thinking skills and understand the big picture earned through years of hard work.
  • Retrain many of these skilled workers to be teachers and university professors. Accept their life experience for credit, let them challenge courses, or give those who excel in their work honorary degrees. They will give back and pay taxes.
  • Pay them a decent wage - one that is competitive and will help them get out of the deep hole they are in so they keep their houses and self-esteem.
  • Subsidize businesses who hire qualified workers 55+ year old.
The way we look at age is different now. 55 is not old anymore. 65 is not even old for people to retire. People are living much longer. Plus, these talented pool of people need to have a purpose and feel that they are valued. Many good technical workers cannot find work and are volunteering their services because they want to give back. Unfortunately, they are losing their homes and dignity. They wonít be able to give back if they have to scrape by to figure out where they are going to sleep or eat their next meal.

Letís rethink how to save the middle class.

Categories: "55" "Age" "Middle Class" "Skills" "Work" "Unemployment" "Workers" "Value"

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Comments: Add New Comments
By Karen Brooks      April 28, 2010 -- 08:15 AM
You bring up such valid points. Even looking at forced retirement. I think the idea of having these people coach or mentor is excellent. Just as we have mentor programs for new teachers, I think we should have mentor programs for retiring as well. This would allow them to pass on and share and even transition into a mentor/coaching relationship. There is too much valuable knowledge and skills there to just toss away.

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By small Barbara Bray      April 28, 2010 -- 08:44 AM
Thanks Karen. The cost of building mentoring programs with retired or laid off tech workers or professionals is more cost-effective than keeping them on unemployment and their value triples. Just imagine the enthusiasm that they can pass on to others. 

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