President Obama’s State of the Union outlined a renewed commitment to job creation and focused on investing in the American people once more. For his initiatives to be successful however, the Administration and Congress must greatly invest in worker training if Americans are going to gain the skills needed to take advantage of emerging job opportunities. The Institute for America’s Future, in partnership with the National Skills Coalition , will release later today, “The Bridge to a New Economy: Worker Training Fills the Gap” a state-by state report highlighting the importance of worker training investments, and why community colleges, business and labor must also come to the table.
Looking forward, job creation initiatives that the President proposed will provide solid growth for middle-skill jobs. The middle-skill sector requires occupations with an associate’s degree or some form of post-secondary certification. They span various fields from nursing and construction to information technology. Much of the employment provided by the Recovery Act or ‘stimulus’ for instance, were in this category. And looking out through the next decade, as the economy begins to pick up speed and grow again, middle-skill jobs will be a significant portion of the job market according to the latest projections by the Department of Labor.
However, the current employment situation in America tells of a different story –we have a major skills gap. As shown in the graphic below, the U.S. has few low-skill jobs for too many low-skill workers. But on the flip side, middle-skill jobs outpace the supply of qualified middle-skill workers. This was just prior to the recession too, so the gap surely persists in light of current economic woes.
This is why, as President Obama emphasized, greater investments in Americans are needed to both revive the American economy and compete globally –worker training is a crucial part to this. Workforce development will allow workers to both gain or retool their skills for the new economy, especially as Congress and the Administration put forth initiatives in the health care, infrastructure and green energy sectors that will spur extensive demand. How else will we fill vacancies for a medical technician or solar panel installer, without providing a strategy for Americans to more easily attain the skills required?
And it is not just for workers to succeed, if businesses are going to grow, especially those in emerging, cutting-edge industries, they need qualified workers with reoriented skills to do the job.
A comprehensive worker training program will require our nation’s 1,000 community colleges to take a lead role, but partnerships with business, labor and community organizations are also important for skills development and career pathways. President Obama will begin to craft the 2011 budget the coming months, I call on him to make worker training an asset in his efforts to bring economic recovery.
For more details about worker training, how it works, and who is involved, please return to ourfuture.org later today.