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Webinar: The Long-term Unemployed Offer Lab Staffing Options

Even if your laboratory is not allowed to hire many new employees, the long-tem unemployed – chemists, other scientists, engineers and lab technicians unemployed for six months or more – can offer a valuable resource of you can persuade your budget p

Even if your laboratory is not allowed to hire many new employees, the long-tem unemployed – chemists, other scientists, engineers and lab technicians unemployed for six months or more – can offer a valuable resource of you can persuade your budget people to allow you to hire them as contract employees or use them to outsource certain functions.

There are a lot of long-term unemployed people out there. About 44% of the unemployed have been without a job for more than six months. Besides the general statistics, the labor market consultant Janice Shriver with the California Employment Development Department (CEDD) singled out chemists and engineers for mention. She noted that the long-term unemployed used to be people difficult to place because of personal factors. Today they are often chemists and engineers, she observed. Many of these chemists and engineers are now competing with less-trained job-seekers in less specialized fields. Age adds another barrier to a group that already may face a stigma - having been out of work for a long stretch. Having an under-water mortgage or being unable to sell one's house reduces one's mobility making it harder to find another job.

Long-term unemployed professionals offer a valuable resource that can help lab managers meet their training and short-term staffing needs. You can help them while enabling your laboratory to accomplish its mission of delivering useful results in a timely way.

Training

Training firms often charge high fees for workshops and short courses. Qualified but unemployed local lab professionals may be able to offer similar training at lower fees.

What sorts of training might be particularly useful? Some lab managers are finding themselves with only relatively inexperienced scientists and technicians to operate sophisticated instruments. If you can find a local professional experienced in operating the make and model of instrument you have, hiring them for perhaps a week to give your own personnel hands-on training may be an option.

Meeting short-duration staffing needs

Hiring the long-term unemployed, providing the individual has the needed skills, may be an option for short-term staffing needs on projects. This is particularly useful should a project fall behind schedule. It is essential that the individual you hire have the needed skills set and experience, be able to learn your laboratory workplace procedures quickly and be able to get along with others on the job.

Vacation replacement is another possible option. Many labs have downsized to the point where an individual highly skilled in operating a particular instrument may not have an experienced back-up to fill in while he/she goes on vacation. Bring an experienced but unemployed person temporarily onboard to fill in temporarily until your own expert returns from vacation can help keep your lab running smoothly.

Finding the long-term unemployed

Finding qualified unemployed individuals who can fill short-term staffing needs can be challenging. Attending local section meeting s of professional groups such as the American Chemical Society may be one way to network and meet these individuals or someone who can suggest someone to you. Advertising the temporary opening in a local section newsletter can be a relatively low cost way to get the word out that you are looking to hire a temporary staff member.

You also can turn your staff members into recruiters by informing them of the type of individual you are looking for.

Helping the long-term unemployed while helping yourself can improve your lab's image in the local scientific community.


John K. Borchardt

Dr. Borchardt is a consultant and technical writer. The author of the book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers,” he writes often on career-related subjects.