Two large employers in Minnesota can’t find enough workers. Why?
MPR News reporter John Enger reports today that Polaris is flying in about a dozen “skilled” workers from Mexico to its plant in Roseau. The company has struggled finding enough workers for years and there are 200 jobs available.
Between 150 and 200 workers are holed up in hotels, because housing is hard to find.
Polaris wouldn’t comment on the story so it’s difficult getting an answer to the question: Is there a shortage of skilled workers or is the money not enough for skilled workers to want to work in Roseau?
On its website today, Polaris lists only seven job openings in Roseau.
In Rochester, the answer is a little clearer on the question of supply and demand.
There’s a nurse shortage at Mayo Clinic, so the medical organization is turning to nurses with associates degrees, citing a large number of retirements.
The Rochester Post Bulletin says there’s a reason for the openings: Retirement benefits are being changed.
The situation comes to light five years after Mayo announced that it planned several changes to its retirement benefits program that would all become effective by Jan. 1, 2015.
In 2009, Mayo’s chief human-resources officer at the time told the Post-Bulletin that, starting in 2015, Mayo would begin calculating retirement investments based on a “career-pay” formula instead of a “final-average-pay” formula. That was intended to avoid market volatility.
The idea was that Mayo’s new approach will allow the clinic to invest based on employees’ actual earnings instead of estimated earnings.The goal was to infuse long-term sustainability into the clinic’s employee-retirement and benefits plan.
That remains true today.
“Mayo Clinic has made changes to our benefit plan to maintain a competitive benefits packages that will ensure Mayo’s long-term sustainability so we can continue to offer world-class benefits to our employees,” said David J. Schuitema, director of Benefits and Allied Health Compensation for Mayo Clinic Human Resources.
Schuitema said as of Jan. 1, “employee-pension benefits will be calculated using an annual-accumulation formula.”
“Pension benefits accrued until that time will be calculated under the current final-average pay formula and will be frozen as of Dec. 31, 2014,” he said. “Mayo will add employer match to the 401(k) and 403 (b) plans.”
That last point — employer match — is something Mayo indicated in 2009 that clinic employees had asked to have added to their benefits program.
In a commentary earlier this year, Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute rejected the idea of a skilled worker shortage.
Despite the clear consensus among researchers that the unambiguous problem is a shortfall of aggregate demand, there is a strong public narrative that today’s jobs recovery is weak because workers don’t have the right skills. Why? One reason may be psychological – it’s easier to blame workers for lack of skills rather than face the fact that millions cannot find work no matter what they do because the jobs simply are not there. That in turn makes it easy for stories and anecdotes about employers who cannot find workers with the skills they need to circulate unscrutinized.
Another reason is political, since the cause of high unemployment is vitally important for policy. If high unemployment is due to workers not having the right skills, then the correct policy prescription is to focus on education and training, and macroeconomic policy to boost aggregate demand will not reduce unemployment. Policymakers and commentators who are against fiscal stimulus have a strong incentive to accept and propagate the myth that today’s high unemployment is because workers lack the right skills.
Shierholz says if there really is a “skilled worker shortage”, the number of hours would be increasing for the skilled workers companies already have. But she said the average workweek hours statistic is barely at pre-recession levels.