If I Were President….

Andy Porter Andy Porter, Audacious Ideas, Labor

Thankfully, the election is upon us which means the end of the super annoying political ads. I mean come on, if you’re still “undecided” at this point in the game I frankly don’t think you deserve to vote at all. But we’ll leave that topic for anot

her post. Instead, I’m going to share with you the HR issues I would tackle head on (maybe not on day one like some candidates) if I were elected President.

Student Loan Incentives – We need to make it much more attractive for students to consider Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees. I struggle to find qualified people to fill certain high-skill roles in my company. Wait, let me take that statement back. I actually see qualified candidates all the time, they’re just not eligible to work in the US. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 5% of U.S. workers are employed in fields related to science and engineering, yet they are responsible for more than 50% of our economic expansion. Still not convinced? At a STEM Summit last fall, Raytheon Chairman and CEO William Swanson said “Too many students and adults are training for jobs in which labor surpluses exist and demand is low, while high-demand jobs, particularly those in STEM fields, go unfilled.” So, if you’re a student and you graduate with a degree in a STEM field and secure a job in your field and work in that field for at least 5 years, your student loan will be forgiven. Yup, that’s right. You don’t have to pay it back.

Visas and Green Cards for Foreign Nationals – Since there’s a lack of STEM talent in the US right now we can’t make it so hard for qualified people to get hired. Right now it’s extremely difficult to secure a work visa not to mention residency if you’re a foreign national who studied in the US. Think about this for just a minute – someone travels across the world to take advantage of our world-class higher education system and then we essentially tell them to beat it. Take your new found skills and go back to your home country. Huh? Now, for the “American worker first” crowd, I’d happily hire qualified US citizens for these roles. The reality is, we don’t produce as many scientists as we used to (see my first point). So here’s what I would propose: if you come to the US and graduate with a bachelor’s, master’s degree, or PhD, you get an automatic work permit with your diploma. If you come to the US and get a degree in a field that we’re desperate for talent then you are put on the fast track for a green card.

Paid Parental Leave – We live in the country with the highest standard of living in the world and the best we can do is 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave?? Seriously? Oh, and that’s only if you have worked at your company for 12 months and have worked a minimum number of hours. And that’s only for mothers. Dads get an even shorter end of the stick. But there are certain situations you can get paid as long as you consider giving birth a disability! And, with some companies, you can even extend your disability pay if you have a C-section! No wonder the rate of C-sections in the US is so high…that’s a post for another day. This is just plain wrong. I propose all parents (mothers and fathers) be given up to 12 months of job-protected, paid leave that they can divide up between each other as they see fit. The only requirement is they must have worked for their company for at least one year. Companies who offer this benefit would get a tax credit for the total amount of salary they paid to employees on leave every year.

Minimum Wage Curve – The federal minimum wage for 2013 is $7.25 with each state having the ability to choose to set their minimum wage higher (by my count only 17 states have chosen to do so). I live in Massachusetts and our minimum wage is $8.00. Seems good right? Well, when you consider that in Boston the average monthly rent is almost $2,000. For a one bedroom apartment. How does $8.00 look now? Pretty much like s#*t. We need a new system. I propose there be two to determining the minimum wage. One, you have to take into account the cost of living of each city and set a wage that’s makes it possible to live there. We can use San Francisco as a guide – they understand it’s extremely expensive to live there and have set the minimum wage for the city at $10.55 per hour. Two, companies with net income over a certain threshold (call it $1B) must pay a minimum wage that is correlated to their annual net income. Walmart, for example with 2011 net income of $14.5B shouldn’t pay anyone the federal minimum wage.

Now of course I have no chance in hell of ever becoming President but hopefully whoever wins this week reads this post and decides to take action.

What would you do if you were president?