Bill Yeargin, CEO of Correct Craft, has been vocal about the national worker shortage and how it is impacting both the United States and the boating industry. He has written multiple blogs and op-ed pieces on this subject. Yeargin gave Soundings Trade Only his views on the worker shortage and, in particular, how legal immigration can help solve this problem.
I think the evidence of a national worker shortage is overwhelming. I served for four years on the Manufacturing Council, which is a group that advises the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and one of the biggest problems we heard from manufacturers was related to their challenges finding employees. Correct Craft has facilities across the country, and despite offering market pay and great benefits, we are challenged to find good employees at all of them.
Twice in the last couple of years I have been in meetings with more than 20 CEOs from around the country, who were asked about their biggest challenge. Almost all of them said it was finding the people that their companies require to grow.
Finally, our nation’s low unemployment rate corroborates the worker shortage. In Florida it was recently reported that there are 250,000 job openings and only 60,000 people on unemployment.
The United States has been fortunate to have a growing economy for nearly a decade, and a growing economy requires more employees. Additionally, 10,000 baby boomers retire every day. The combination of these factors is creating a critical worker shortage in the United States.
Most people seem to think the key to fixing the worker shortage is more training. Training is great, and there are dozens of federal initiatives, in addition to those offered by states, regions, counties and industries. Much of this training is focused on developing technical skills, when often it would be better to start with basic employability skills.
We pride ourselves on our Correct Craft University, which trains our team. We have invested countless hours and dollars in employee development and supported nearly 30 of our employees who went back to get MBA degrees. However, while developing workers is always good, we need more people.
Relying on training won’t solve our national worker shortage problem and will eventually hold back our economy. While I fully embrace training, we need more workers.
Some argue that U.S. companies should pay employees more to make jobs more attractive. Again, that does not solve the core problem of needing more people.
Eventually technology will help alleviate the worker shortage problem, but that is still years away. In the meantime, we need more people, and I have argued that we should consider “responsible” legal immigration.
The U.S. economy was built on immigrants moving to the United States. My family were immigrants, and it is likely that most people reading this are from a family of immigrants. History has demonstrated that immigration provides workers, and consumers, who fuel our economy. If we want to ensure our economy continues to grow, we need a policy of responsible immigration that allows people from outside the United States to join us who will be net contributors to our country.
There also are indirect benefits of responsible immigration. Immigrants become customers for all our businesses and contribute to starting new businesses and creating wealth. Some of the most valuable U.S. companies were started by immigrants, and those businesses have created millions of jobs. In order to fully appreciate this perspective, we need to eliminate the zero sum mindset. We all can benefit if we focus on trying to make the economic pie bigger, rather than just worrying about how to divide the current pie.
Many people are concerned that immigrants take jobs from U.S. workers. I believe the bigger risk is that the U.S. economy stops growing because there are not enough workers to fuel it. This would be bad for our economy and eventually result in fewer available jobs. I believe responsible immigration can continue to create more jobs by fueling our economy.
My views on how immigration can help us are the result of much reading and personal experience. Anyone who wants to read a great book on how immigration has helped the United States grow into the country it is today should read A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy. Of course, it was written several decades ago, but it does a great job of explaining how immigration has made the United States wealthy and strong.
If you walk through Correct Craft facilities around the country, we look like the United Nations. We have people from all over the world working with us, and they do a great job. The diversity makes us stronger and better, and I love it. On a scale of 1 to 10, our experience is clearly a 10.
The biggest downside to immigration may be for the countries that lose their people to the United States. Often the best and brightest want to come here, and their home countries lose the opportunity for those residents to help create wealth there. Also, we need to ensure that we have good controls so we only allow people into the United States who will be constructive contributors to our society. We clearly do not want people who are criminals or terrorists.
I advocate for a well-managed immigration policy because I love my country, our industry and our company. History is very clear that responsible immigration fuels our economy. My ancestors immigrated to the United States, and I like to believe we have been net contributors to our country. I have met plenty of people around the world who could do the same thing. I have no desire to be political; my views on this are not left or right, but pragmatic.
Immigration is an emotional topic, but I truly believe we need responsible immigration to fuel our economy. Often when I speak or write about immigration, people jump to an emotional view based on what they see as abuses. I am in no way advocating for open borders or opening our country to criminals or people who only want to live off our resources. I am advocating for a policy that welcomes people who will be net contributors and fuel our prosperity beyond our wildest dreams.
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue.