- At a conference in Washington, D.C. this week, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue discussed ways to improve the skills gap by increasing the focus on early-childhood education and, at the K-12 level, focusing on rigorous standards, school choice and tough accountability, The 74 reports.
- The country is also facing a “people gap,” Donohue said. Immigration reform can help, he said, but government and businesses must also address the opioid crisis and prison reform and find ways to re-engage “opportunity youth” — those between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school or in the workforce.
- Employers can help by promoting educational opportunities among their employees to improve the overall job pipeline and by providing long-term internship and job training opportunities that can tighten up the labor market and fill in the gaps left by K-12 education, panelists at the conference said.
The economics of society are interdependent. Businesses need workers who are trained for new technologies and so they depend on schools to provide the basics of education and the soft skills needed to function in the workplace. Schools rely on businesses for additional support and to provide workplace training opportunities for students. Businesses can also provide incentives for students to succeed because they know a good job is waiting for them at the end of the road.
When these entities work together, a great deal can be accomplished. Groups such as local chambers of commerce can help encourage business cooperation and can facilitate opportunities for schools and business to interact. And nationally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is working to coordinate efforts between businesses and education.
Businesses have an incentive to work with schools because of the talent pool that exists there. According to an April release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of October 2017, 66.7% of 2017 high school graduates age 16 to 24 were enrolled in colleges or universities. This leaves about 16.3 million people in that age range who were not enrolled in school at that time. High school dropouts are likely to earn low wages while high-paying jobs are currently available even if students don’t go to college.
Communities can help workforce development by supporting preschool education programs and by working together to create job readiness programs for students and for those who need a second chance at preparing for the workforce. Increasing economic opportunities can improve outcomes for students and the economic well-being of their own children in the future.