You may have anticipated that President Obama would discuss hot topics such as jobs, wages and the skills gap — issues that are top of mind for employers — during last night’s State of the Union address. And if you saw last night’s speech, you would have seen that he didn’t disappoint. If you missed last night’s speech or if you’re just looking for a quick recap of the topics that matter to you, you’ve come to the right place. Here are five highlights.
1. Raising the minimum wage. President Obama discussed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for new federal contracts to $10.10 an hour. Why? “Raising the minimum wage will make sure no family of four with a full-time worker has to raise their children in poverty.” His message to those watching: “Do what you can to raise wages — it’s good for the economy, and it’s good for America.”
2. Closing the skills gap. The president briefly touched on the need to close the skills gap for ready-to-fill jobs through techniques such as offering more on-the-job training, more apprenticeships and partnering with community colleges to train people to get up to speed. Fortunately, our recent research shows that 1 in 2 employers will train new hires to close the skills gap instead of waiting around endlessly for qualified candidates. If you’re trying to close the skills gap in your company, here are 10 useful tips.
Fun fact: If you were live tweeting #SOTU last night, you helped to generate as many as 1.7 million tweets during the telecast. The top three trending topics were Mad Men, Min Wage and Healthcare.
3. Long-term unemployment. The topic of long-term unemployment also came up during the State of the Union, when the president announced he’s getting some prominent corporations to sign a pledge stating that they won’t discriminate against the unemployed and will consider qualified people even if they fall under the long-term unemployed category. You may be aware of the stigma that, for whatever reason, exists but to see how extensive it is, check out this study showing how some employers are more likely to pursue candidates with less relevant experience who have been unemployed for a short while rather than more qualified candidates who have been unemployed long term. Even a recent CareerBuilder survey found that nearly 1 in 3 people who were previously employed full-time said they couldn’t even land a single job interview since becoming unemployed a year ago or longer. What’s more, 1 in 4 long-term unemployed can’t afford food, 1 in 10 have lost their home or apartment, and a similar number have resorted to moving back home with their parents.
4. Veteran hiring. You may have heard the president proudly point to his wife when discussing Joining Forces, the White House initiative to assist military families. Led by First Lady Michelle Obama (who recently keynoted Disney’s “Veterans Institute” workshop) and Dr. Jill Biden, the initiative puts military hiring in the spotlight. If you’re looking to find and attract military veterans but need some advice on how to move forward, here are nine practical tips to help you. And if you’re asking yourself: ”Why should I hire a military veteran?” an even better question is “Why wouldn’t you?” Consider the fact that 7 in 10 veterans feel prepared when they entered the civilian workforce following active duty.
5. Gender pay gap. Though women comprise about half of today’s workforce, they are still only paid 77 cents on every dollar a man earns, which the president called an embarrassment in the present day. “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode,” he said. Did you know men and women have starkly different views of gender inequality in the workplace, even when it comes to income? While 38 percent of women felt they earned less than their male counterparts, 84 percent of men believe males and females with the same qualifications are paid the same, according to a 2011 CareerBuilder survey.
ICYMI, here’s a complete transcript of the State of the Union.
Tell us what you thought of the State of the Union — including your top takeaways — in the comments below. Or tweet us @CBforEmployers.
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