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Time to Have an Honest Conversation About America’s Skilled Labor Gap

While we all see the unemployment rate falling to 3.5 percent this summer, the lowest level in more than 50 years, we see this as good economic news… And it is. But as with most good news, it is generally followed by bad news, the other side to the nation’s historically low unemployment numbers.

Across the skilled trades business sectors, businesses can’t find workers to fill open positions. There are more than 10.7 million job openings in the U.S., and 2.3 million retiring in the next 10 years, just in construction alone. With only 5.7 million unemployed workers, even if every unemployed American found a job, more than 5 million jobs unfilled.

It’s time this country has an honest and difficult conversation about immigration. While many of the immigrants are unskilled, many more do have a skilled trade, and can immediately be put to work alleviating inflation and shortages of goods.

But as long as our broken 2 party political system is allowed to carry on, we will not see meaningful immigration reform. Legal immigrant workers could fill many of these jobs, and our U.S. born citizens who would benefit the most from their contributions. Developing a fair and reasonable immigration program requiring stable and verifiable legitimate employment, paying taxes, and a clean criminal record is not an impossible plan to develop.

Democrats and Republicans continue to use immigration reform as a political football, lining the pockets of both sides, while Americans continue to pay the price, and suffer the consequences. Until American citizens reject the corrupt 2 party system, set term limits, and embrace real people as candidates for office, nothing will improve, and the skilled trades gap will not close.

Employers need the energy, talents, and skills as well as the dignity and stability that comes with permanent legal status for a skilled workforce. From high inflation to an unprecedented labor crisis to declining global competitiveness, America faces a series of serious challenges. The key to meeting those challenges depends on reaffirming America’s character as a signal of hope, freedom, and opportunity for everyone.

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