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Heidi Golledge Headshot

Labor Participation Rate Keeps Falling While Millions of Jobs Go Unfilled

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The labor participation rate for March fell to 63.3 percent -- a new 34 year low, according to numbers released today by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows a very troubling picture for people aged 20 to 24 looking for work with unemployment at more than 13 percent for these young workers.

With more than 3 million open and available jobs on the career website alone, why do we keep seeing the labor participation rate dropping?

The answer is that employers can't find the right workers. Too many unemployed American workers lack the relevant skills needed to fill the millions of jobs available. Unfortunately, this gap between people wanting work and employers wanting workers is poised to grow as some 1.8 college students prepare to graduate in 2013 and enter the job market.

We are on a dangerous and growing path towards higher unemployment unless we start training workers for the growing sectors -- not the dying ones.

The new graduates who are lucky enough to find employment in a reasonable amount of time are most often not finding fulfilling work. Many have to settle in order to pay the bills. Nearly 70 percent of graduates surveyed for a 2011 Rutgers University study said their first job out of college either didn't require a degree or that it was "just a job to get you by."

It doesn't have to be that way.

If you look at the current employment numbers there is a quality job out there for just about every graduate -- if only they would have been guided toward courses of study that would give them the skills most in demand.

Information technology and healthcare, for example, are already having trouble finding qualified applicants for the jobs available, despite a forecast that global tech spending will reach almost $4 trillion this year, and reports that the healthcare industry is expected to add 5.6 million jobs by 2020.

We can start to bridge the skills gap now by guiding future workers toward growing and emerging industries.

Parents of high school aged teenagers should encourage their children to use their technology skills to find a career. Parents should challenge their kids to create programs, develop apps and write code -- they can learn for free at sites like The UK's Nick D'Aloisio, who sold an app to Yahoo for a reported $30 million, is just 17-years-old.

Talking to our kids about what interests them and to discover how those interests can be applied to growing industries will get them on track to build relevant employment skills. It is not about forcing our children into a job -- it is about identifying their natural interest and skills and putting them on the path to a happy, successful and secure career.

Current college students should consider switching to a curriculum that will prepare them for a variety of jobs in the IT field. It isn't too late to learn how to program a computer. Now is the time to grasp the concept of SEO. Coeds should also take as much math as you can handle -- there are huge opportunities in the arena of Big Data. No matter what you end up doing, tech skills will create more opportunities.

There is no denying the fact that a computer science major is in a much better position once they hit the job market than someone who studied communications. It is not about being better than the other applicant as much as it is about being prepared in a relevant and growing sector. Business and government leaders need to look no further than today's unemployment figures to see that we are not equipping today's graduates with the rights skills to meet today's current employment demands.

Retraining current workers to fill open jobs is the only way to close the skills gap. Business and government leaders need to look no further than today's unemployment announcement from the Bureau of Labor statistics to see that we are not equipping today's graduates with the rights skills to meet today's current employment demands.