In the past two years the universe of workforce development has been stood on its head. The Great Resignation has created huge gaps in our job market, yet this has proven that people are not a commodity.

In commodity studies it is well known that the solution to high prices is higher prices, and the cure for low prices is lower prices. What that refers to is this: When prices are high for almost any commodity, there will be more investment in production, and output will increase. This will lead to an oversupply of that commodity and a subsequent collapse in prices. That collapse drives many producers out of the marketplace, so later there will be a shortage, and prices will skyrocket again.

Yet when you look at the response of some in the business community toward the shortage of workers, you might get a lot of anger, blame, and grievance. Anger that the low-level employees did not return, blame placed on what the business community thought were excessively generous government handouts during the COVID shutdowns, and a strong sense of grievance that it was someone else’s fault. You need to change this outlook on their part.

The business community, and the government, needs to understand that when you understand why one person did not come back to work, you know why one person did not come back to work. This is due to the fact that each person has a unique story. The other reason their response has been so limited is the lack of data, so business and government have replaced data with ideologies.

Governing magazine recently published a very good article about the importance of data and employment called “Elected Leaders and the Mismatch Between What Employers and Workers Need,” and it should give you some more insights to utilize in your work.

But most importantly, what you as a Bridges advocate can do is to sit down with the elected and agency officials or business leaders in your community, perhaps starting with the mayor or local chamber of commerce, then on their recommendation meet with the various agency or business leaders to ask them how you can help them make their job easier. Listen carefully, and if applicable, give them a copy of Ruth Weirich’s book Workplace Stability.

As outlined in Bridges Across Every Divide, take them to lunch and include a board member plus a recent Getting Ahead graduate. Go to a place that serves breakfast all day; that place will attract ordinary people, and leaders need to be reminded that population exists. Sit at a booth and put them on the inside seat; that way you control the lunch.

Ask them how you can make their job easier, listen to their problems, and you will find the various Bridges models that can help them.

Especially with elected and agency officials, ask them how you can sit on the various committees that decide workforce policy, like the workforce investment boards mentioned in the article from Governing. Give elected and agency officials a copy of Bridges Across Every Divide, which also helps them understand why Bridges is important to them.

Just remember, every time you have lunch alone at your desk, it is a wasted opportunity. Get out there.