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Entrepreneurs Can Help Solve Jobs Crisis

Steve Poizner
California Entrepreneur & former State Insurance Commissioner

Crossposted San Diego Union Tribune

Glimpse any recent government jobs report and it becomes very clear. We must do much more immediately to attack our nation’s unemployment crisis. And I call on America’s millions of entrepreneurs to tackle this critical issue.

I urge this as someone who’s dealt with this problem extensively in both the public and private sector – in government as the state of California tackled the jobless problem, and now in the midst of my third startup. I’ve lived and breathed the issues of creating jobs and finding skilled workers both in times of economic growth and recession. There is still much more we entrepreneurs can do to help solve this.

Today’s awful job market isn’t simply a factor of having more people than jobs. It also reflects a disconnect between employers and desired skills. More than 3 million job openings exist in the U.S. Many go unfilled for months, as roughly half of employers report having a hard time finding qualified workers for certain jobs, especially in technical fields. With this disparity, it’s all too clear we possess a severe skills-gap problem. Entrepreneurs need to work together toward a solution.

Let me offer a few suggestions:

• Consider offering your employees flexible hours so they can pursue additional education.

• Mobilize global companies to raise funds for small-business loans. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz did that when he activated Create Jobs for USA, which uses donations to help finance small-business loans throughout the country.

• Follow the New Options New Mexico program that creates pathways to jobs for young adults by employing a skills-based hiring model that lets employers and job seekers speak a common language when they describe essential job skills. The program is financed by a $28 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

• Determine if you can mirror a program similar to that of Combat2Career, a Connecticut-based technology startup that guides military members and veterans in the pursuit of higher education and the transition to civil careers, through a Web-based portal. C2C matches veterans with veteran-friendly higher-education programs and civilian employers that best suit their individual needs and skill sets.

I conceived my latest venture, Empowered UCLA Extension, when three unrelated entities – UCLA, Silicon Valley and the entertainment industry – came together to address the skills gap. One of Empowered’s goals is to affordably and efficiently retrain and redeploy those out of work, especially those within the Baby Boomer generation. We are seeking broader, against-the-grain solutions to the jobs issue and skill gap that are forward-thinking and inspirational. Emphasis on re-education will make a difference, especially if entrepreneurs play a major part in helping make that possible.

Enough creative energy and force exists within American companies and among American entrepreneurs to forge a dramatic change in the employment landscape. We entrepreneurs must use the assets at our disposal and the people we can collaborate with in our networks to develop and bring innovative and job-creating solutions to the table.

Inventors and visionaries worked together to push this nation to the top. Surely, today’s generation of innovators and entrepreneurs can do the same to solve our jobs crisis.

Poizner is a California entrepreneur and former state insurance commissioner.

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