Create a plan to combat the labor shortage

By Kimberly Stanséll

The most pressing concern of small-businesses today: a tight labor market. According to the latest American City Business Journal (ACBJ) survey, 23% of small-businesses canvassed cited labor shortages as their top challenge. Excluding one-person businesses, 63% said they had difficulty either hiring or retaining qualified employees. However, a dwindling talent pool can impact a solopreneur as well as the small-office employer, making it difficult to find quality in-house staffers and contract workers. You can minimize the effects of a labor pinch by creating win-win alliances that help potential workers improve their skills. Here's how.

Consider community workplace programs. Scout out opportunities to help improve your community employment base while meeting the needs of your business. For example, Worklink (800-251-7236) helps employers evaluate the workplace skills of local high school students. And the National School-to-Work Learning and Information Center (800-251-7236) helps facilitate opportunities for students to gain skills through local employers.

Maximize college, universities, and technical or trade school programs. Many successful businesses have been built on the backs of in-school labor. The type of work you're offering may be hands-on experience that's a fit for a college work-study or intern program. Contact the school's placement office and inquire about upcoming Internship Fairs. You could first visit a fair to see how other small-employers are managing their intern programs. Don't ignore apprenticeship opportunities. Depending on your industry, working with an apprentice could help meet your labor needs while helping someone in the process. Check with local technical or trade schools or the Unemployment Office for more information on offering an apprenticeship through your business.

Sponsor an educational opportunity for local entrepreneurs. The executive producer of Making It! Minority Success Stories (, along with a corporate sponsor, offered four scholarships to USC's FastTrac Program. The winners will benefit from some wonderful entrepreneurial training as they build and grow their businesses and become further qualified for contractor opportunities.

Remember an undesirable workforce has the potential to become every businessperson's problem. Take actions today to ensure that your business's growth plans are not stunted.

Kimberly Stanséll is a Los Angeles-based author, entrepreneur and businesswoman. She is the author of 'Bootstrapper's Success Secrets: 151 Tactics for Building Your Business on a Shoestring Budget.'

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