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Although the reasons for the current labor shortage are myriad, NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka says the lack of affordable childcare and the need to upskill the workforce are the most important challenges that must be solved so that employers can find the workers they need to fill open positions.

Speaking as a guest panelist on Thomas Edison State University’s “Edison Sound Stage” podcast, Siekerka said research shows people have more disposable income now due to federal COVID stimulus programs and many are “waiting on the sidelines” as they reevaluate their next career move. Others have opted to leave jobs that require them to be physically in a workplace in favor of new careers that offer them the flexibility of remote work.

One of the biggest triggers though is childcare,” Siekerka told TESU President Dr. Merodie Hancock. “And that concerns us tremendously … that crisis is basically a workforce crisis in that industry. The access and affordability of childcare on top of that is having a disproportionate impact on our working mothers. For the first time in over three decades, we have the lowest labor participation rate right now of women in the workforce and we should be highly concerned about that.”

Siekerka said another challenge is that people reentering the workforce are finding they need new skillsets than those needed for jobs they held before.

“We need to have a very focused and comprehensive strategy, a holistic strategy, on how we reskill and upskill New Jersey’s workforce,” Siekerka said.