September 19, 2012

Help Wanted 2012: Addressing the Skills Gap

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One key to thriving in a competitive global economy is a properly skilled workforce that can innovate, create new products and services, and bring them to market quickly and efficiently. America remains a leader in innovation, but its workforce is falling behind. Education and workforce development systems have not kept pace with the demands of the 21st century, and we all bear the costs of this failure.

American businesses spend billions of dollars each year training their employees and pour billions more into education. Despite these substantial investments, employers continue to report that too many job seekers are unqualified for modern jobs. Basic training programs alone cannot bridge the skills gap. As a result, more than 3 million jobs continue to go unfilled despite high, persistent unemployment. By allowing these jobs to sit vacant, the United States is missing crucial opportunities to grow the economy and strengthen the recovery.

Meanwhile, our competitors are moving full steam ahead. Germany, India, Korea, and China have all made it a priority to prepare their citizens to work in the 21st century—and their economies are stronger for it. Moreover, capital and investment follow talent. Global investors and major manufacturers will go where the skilled workers are.

The choice is clear: We can act swiftly to bridge the U.S. skills gap, or we can sit back and watch our competitors prosper while our economy plods along.

So how do we bridge the skills gap?

In this report, we’ll hear directly from the education and business leaders who strive to manage the skills gap challenge every day. They share with us the deficiencies in their current and future talent pools and outline their vision of what it will take for the United States to regain its footing as the most skilled workforce in the world. These leaders ultimately remain confident that we can fix our education and workforce development systems, and they are prepared to work with local and national leaders to get the job done. We hope policymakers and education leaders will join us in putting America back to work.

Thomas J. Donohue
President and Chief Executive Officer
U.S. Chamber of Commerce