05/08/2012 09:25 am ET Updated Jul 08, 2012

Innovation Is Needed to Match Workers With Jobs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in April 2012, 12.5 million Americans were still unemployed. As someone who works at a social enterprise focused on putting people back to work, that number is certainly alarming. But here's one that disturbs me even more: there are currently 3.5 million unfilled jobs in this country. Yes, despite this giant pool of long-term unemployed workers, businesses from the tech industry to the manufacturing industry, and all industries in between, are still having trouble matching people to jobs.

The most common explanation for the open jobs is that there is a so-called "skills mismatch" -- the assumption that unemployed people don't have the right skills to match unfilled positions. However, a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco concluded that the real problem isn't a skills mismatch so much as a lack of mobility -- with people tied to their communities because of mortgages or other family commitment -- as well as a failure to get the right job candidates in front of employers that are hiring.

With 12.5 million people out of work and 3.5 million jobs open, we should certainly be doing everything possible to help employers and workers overcome these hurdles. Fortunately, there are plenty of innovators out there coming up with new ways to help. Recently, I've read about several interesting new start-ups that help job seekers find employment, from thoughtful small fixes like ApplicationBling, which helps prospective employees make their résumés stand out, to big-picture ideas such as, a dynamic website that brings the job-hunting process into the 21st century.

And, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, more and more companies are supplementing their traditional hiring processes with virtual career fairs, which can help employers refine their recruiting strategies, expand their candidate pools, and reach candidates who may not be able to attend in-person fairs. Bringing job fairs to the Internet helps employers quickly narrow their searches down to the right candidates, and helps job seekers find the best companies for them, regardless of location or other obstacles to reaching in-person job fairs.

At Goodwill Industries International, the nation's leading non-profit provider of job placement and training programs to people who have disabilities, those who lack education or job experience, and others who face challenges to finding employment, we're excited to bring this innovation to the population we serve with our own inaugural virtual career fair, coming May 7th to the 10th. Held in partnership with Cintas and hosted by, Goodwill's virtual career fair will give people a new way to connect with potential employers. More than 1,120 job seekers are currently registered and there is still time to register.

In 2011, Goodwill helped millions of people train for careers in industries as diverse as banking, IT and health care, to name a few. I know from experience that the current jobs crisis definitely is not just about a skills mismatch and a lack of training. If we are really serious about filling the 3.5 million open jobs in this country, training is just the beginning -- what we need even more is for employers to change how they seek to match workers with jobs.