Pretend for a moment you’ve been awarded a spot on a reality television show titled, Let’s Make a Hire. In a race against the clock, you are tasked with hiring skilled workers to complete a project on budget and on time.
It seems simple enough, but you quickly realize your pool of qualified applicants is smaller than expected and rapidly diminishing as other employers lure them away. You lose a substantial amount of money in training and turnover and finish the task woefully behind the deadline. Rather than walk away with the prize money, your stint on Let’s Make a Hire ends with an embarrassing loss.
But let’s face facts. This isn’t entertainment; it’s reality. The skills required by our workforce are growing in complexity, and there are too few people trained to do the work our new technology and information-based economy demands.
Likewise, we’ve started to lose the critical skills and knowledge that retiring Baby Boomers acquired in manufacturing, healthcare and other industries which are aging out and have an inadequate supply of younger workers moving in or up.
Upon further review of all this research, we can conclude that unless employers make workforce development a high priority, America is likely to lose its position of global leadership in ways that could put our future living standards and business competitiveness at risk.
There are 3.3 million job openings in the U.S. and roughly half of employers say they’re having a hard time finding qualified workers. The skills gap is starkest in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering mathematics) careers.
President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness recently identified this gap between higher education and workforce training as a “critical problem” for U.S. competitiveness. The Council further identified ways for every entity from preschools to the Department of Labor to pitch in and reinvest in our nation’s workforce development.
Unfortunately, the information hasn’t been well publicized. (If this message was getting even half the media’s attention as the Affordable Care Act, we’d already be making great strides in economic growth!)
So if you weren’t aware of The Council’s call to action, here are just a few of the ways you can help.
Explore opportunities with educational institutions to assist with designing and implementing curricula that better prepare students for real world employment.
Partner with post-secondary institutions to develop skills-based learning standards so students earn credentials based on competence and not just credit hours.
Provide information on skills needed within your company so employers, educators and students can efficiently match education and training with employer needs.
Share your professional skills and knowledge in classrooms, review information on your school’s performance, and advocate for the support of resources linked to the critical areas of STEM education.
Unlike the Let’s Make a Hire scenario outline above, if we fail to bridge the skills gap and prioritize workforce development, we stand to lose much more than prize money and pride. Collectively, we can change our course. Let’s get to work on workforce development now — before it’s too late.
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