One of the tragedies of this pandemic is that many workers who lost their jobs have few options. Sure, they could work for a retailer or delivery service, but those jobs come with their own risks and, in the long term, offer little room for growth. Job training programs are almost non-existent now — and historically here in the U.S. they're often overhyped and underfunded.
The disparities in the job market are particularly acute now. Take, for example, what’s happened with Airbnb, which has been hit hard by this crisis. To its credit, the online accommodation booking service harnessed its tech resources to create an online “talent directory” to help its laid-off employees retrench and find their next jobs. Such an option helps at a time when many human resources and outplacement firms can’t offer their services due to social distancing guidelines. For retail and many gig economy workers, however, such options have rarely existed upon receiving a pink slip.
Various industries could certainly hone their social responsibility chops by pooling what resources they have to help citizens retool, retrain and reenter the workforce. So far, many of these private-sector collaborations, such as the much ballyhooed COVID-19 testing centers that were supposed to spring up at retail stores’ parking lots, have fallen flat. Now America’s top companies, whether they are in the apparel, retail, hospitality, pharmaceutical or healthcare industries have an opportunity to shine.
With the U.S. death toll alone expected to hit 90,000 at any moment as of press time, it’s pretty clear this crisis will not subside anytime soon, no matter how much sunlight or disinfectant will be out there in the coming summer months. And even if the novel coronavirus indeed “goes away,” we’ll still have lingering effects for a long time.
We’re clearly going to need more healthcare industry workers, whether they work on the front lines, help with pesky administrative tasks, or drop off needed goods, food or medicine. We can point to one example in Sweden, where furloughed airline workers are being retrained in basic hospital duties to help fill the gaps in that country’s strained healthcare system.
The U.S. could benefit from such an effort. Manufacturers could manufacture that much-needed protective equipment. The wider healthcare sector could mobilize to fund and execute needed training. Airlines could transport these newly trained citizens to places where they are needed. The hospitality sector could house these people in far-flung rural areas or other “hotspots” that will surely fester over the next several months. The retail and commercial real estate industries could find space where services such as counseling or testing could be done.
There’s no shortage of blue-collar, white-collar and new grads – from high school, college or otherwise – who would be willing to help if they could retrain and be fairly compensated. It’s just that right now, they don’t know where to go or how to help. America’s top companies could pitch in and help getting these monumental tasks done. After all, while we usually rely on nonprofits to perform these functions, many are shuttered or barely in operation, as shelter-in-place orders have largely stalled these organizations’ fundraising activities.
Actions that buttress the U.S. healthcare system would be much more effective than what the editorial board of TriplePundit currently sees out there. Sure, those seven-figure donations sound generous, but the public relations firms pitching this “generosity” never mention that these sums of money are at most one one-thousandth of a typical company’s revenues – and in any event, we here at 3p reply that such announcements are in reality table stakes.
Bottom line, the private sector needs to do better. We don’t need warm thoughts or well wishes or knowing that companies are thinking of us. And healthcare workers don’t need free pizza or prepackaged fruit cups. They need real, authentic and logistical support. Now.
Image credit: JC Gellidon/Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.