Yes, the Height of Your Audacity Is Shocking

09/03/2010 03:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dear Mark Ayers,

I read with great alarm your article on the Huffington Post Web site on the subject of Manpower's new research report, "Strategic Migration - A Short-Term Solution to the Skilled Trades Shortage," and I could not let it pass without a comment as you are factually incorrect on all your assertions pertaining to Manpower.

Let me begin with your incomprehensible accusation that Manpower produced this report due to a self-serving motive and that it is inherently biased. This is simply wrong. Manpower is not, and never has been in the business of migrating skilled trades workers to the United States. We are merely leveraging our global labor market expertise to bring visibility to a real labor-market issue that poses an obstacle to future economic growth. This potential choke-point becomes exacerbated by the demographic landscape and as talent shortages become more severe.

Manpower did not suddenly magically pull this "report" - as you refer to it - out of a hat. We have conducted a global annual survey for the past five years that has shown that talent shortages persist in key positions - consistently topping the charts year after year has been the skilled trades - and this remains the case despite high unemployment - 31 percent of employers 35,000 we surveyed across 36 countries and territories worldwide in 2010 reported difficulty filling key positions within their organizations.

Globally, the skilled trades shortage is the No. 1 or No. 2 hardest job to fill in six of the 10 biggest economies - including the U.S. Incidentally, Manpower does 90% of its business outside of the U.S., so to claim our agenda is to push for the increased use of "cheap immigrant labor" in the U.S. and therefore fatten our profit margin is a crass assertion and utter fiction. Our growth outside the U.S. comes from domestic growth within those countries, not from outsourcing our own business. And it is that growth that has allowed us to maintain our world headquarters in the U.S. and also allowed us to build a new green world headquarters building in a revitalized part of downtown Milwaukee, where we were founded over 60 years ago.

In February of this year, I was invited to testify at a hearing of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee focusing on the labor market, and policies to foster economic growth and job creation. On Capitol Hill, I argued that to foster job creation, one of the groups that initiatives should be targeted at is potential new business owners. New small business owners will drive long-term job creation in this country, and skilled trades workers can potentially own their own business and have three or four employees within a few years.

This brings me to the H1B Visa issue, which is a travesty and the U.S. is hindering one of our greatest sources of innovation by having too low a limit on the number of non-immigrant visas it issues. We are preventing the brightest minds from entering the country, which is nonsense given that the growth of this country came from people who arrived here from overseas with an idea, developed it and created employment. Two thirds of Silicon Valley companies were started by people born outside the U.S. If the brightest minds cannot come to the U.S., it will be our loss because there are plenty of other alternatives open to them in places like Shanghai, Mumbai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai. The modern labor market is truly global and to prevent workers with scarce skills coming here harms our competitiveness on the world stage.

If you had read our research paper thoroughly instead of scanning it for key words and putting your own spin on the content to further your own agenda, you would have noticed that we are advocating for the development of the indigenous workforce for the long-term. This is where the unions can play a pivotal role. Strategic migration is a practical answer today because there is simply no other way to alleviate shortages of skilled blue-collar workers in the short-term. If you had bothered to watch, read or listen to media coverage of the research paper, you would know that we are calling for a societal mindset shift to bring honor back to the skilled trades by promoting positive attitudes toward this work from parents and educational institutions alike and impress on them that they are an equally, if not more in some cases, lucrative alternative to university degrees.

We are also calling for governments, unions and businesses (in European speak - social partners) to work more closely with technical education institutions to ensure individuals develop the relevant skills that allow them to immediately contribute to the workforce, and to anticipate what skills will be needed to satisfy global business demands.

Yes, unemployment remains high, and we know there are many skilled trades people out of work today. As a result, we are trying to do our part to help them maintain their honor and dignity by providing a bridge to employment and enhancing their skills and livelihood. Having said that, the pipeline of skilled trades workers as we look to the future is not as robust as this country needs. Knowledgeable debate and action is required to address this, and it's is all part of the talent conundrum that is frustrating businesses and individuals alike. There are simply not enough people with the right skills in the right place at the right time. You can resolve this issue in two ways - by bringing the workers to where the work is and by creating a larger pool of available and qualified talent in key areas locally.

I find the headline of your article particularly ironic as you are the one who is clearly using your role to further your own agenda. Instead of wasting your energy on attacking our report, you and other representatives of unions should be leveraging it as a platform to call for more action to upskill and increase training in such areas, and thinking creatively about how to move workers around within the country--to where the demand is - a much more productive and effective use of your time, for all of us.

Jeffrey A. Joerres

Manpower Inc. Chairman and CEO