There are not enough jobs. Despite workforce development programs, re-education efforts, and reported growth sectors, there are simply not enough meaningful opportunities for all who seek them.
I am painfully aware of this fact, especially when I help individuals apply for jobs. As we tighten their resume and reframe their experiences, we are in essence trying to win opportunities from others who are equally deserving.
This notion of competition for limited opportunities serves as the very foundation of the job market and the pipelines that feed it. It’s a notion that is inherently self-limiting.
When I play my favorite game of imagining the best case scenario, in this case every job that is posted in the local employment ads filled, and ask myself whether it would be enough, the answer is a resounding no.
Through the lens of community development our situation becomes even more frustrating. The existing space of job openings is neither necessarily nor sufficiently tied to strengthening our communities.
And so while we are trying unsuccessfully to tackle one problem- underemployment- we are ignoring the deeper and more systemic problems of community development and sustainability.
We need to expand the jobs space. There is no other way. We need to create new opportunities for people to contribute and earn. But ideally, many of these new opportunities should have positive impacts on the community- by design.
How do we do this?
We can expand space by building new models that make services accessible to the public, while also creating awareness and interest in their value- thus expanding the market.
There are many examples of services that are ripe for expansion. Mediation, the healing professions, consulting- all process related services that help individuals and organizations function at their best toward the greatest impact. And although practitioners exist within our communities, they are currently competing for a very limited audience that recognizes the value and can pay for their services.
But by educating and promoting the value, by coming together to form workshops, consortia, and well promoted events, we can actually create more spaces and opportunities for jobs, providers, and variations to emerge.
You can see this trend in the world of education where consultants and specialists can help with virtually any aspect of curriculum design, support, or reform. Since schools and districts can pay for these services through grants and other available funding sources, a rich market of vendors has emerged, expanding the space for new providers and paradigms.
Once a market is established growth and diversification will come.
Every day, I meet talented individuals ready to work and contribute to their communities but unsure how to find their way. The fact that most of these individuals are women suggests a unique opportunity for new models to be developed and customized.
Can these services make money and create jobs? Absolutely. But they can also result in stronger and healthier communities that value the contributions and wellbeing of all their citizens.
Clearly, this is a new frontier worth exploring.