One of the biggest threats to the future of the U.S. economy is that more and more of the U.S. workforce lacks the skills needed to fill the jobs being created in the 21st century.
Last year, a survey by ManpowerGroup found that 49% of U.S. employers are struggling to fill essential jobs, because they can’t find workers with the proper skills.
Amazingly, there are 3.8 million job vacancies in the U.S. Yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 11.8 million Americans looking for work and the U.S. unemployment rate is an unacceptably high 7.6%.
The crisis is having an adverse effect on individuals, communities, and businesses as well as the U.S. economy as a whole.
That’s why improving education is one of the themes President Barack Obama is focusing on in his series of speeches on the U.S. economy this summer.
“Technology and global competition, they’re not going away,” the president said at a speech last week at Knox College in Galesburg, IL. One of the cornerstones of a strong middle class, he added, is “an education that prepares our children and our workers for the global competition that they’re going to face.”
But it’s going to take more than talk to fix this problem.
Ed Rust, chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and CEO of State Farm Mutual Insurance, noted in a recent speech that little has been done about the disconnect between the U.S education system and in-demand job skills since the issue was first brought to light in the 1983 report “A Nation at Risk.”
“Thirty years later, our country is still at risk. There’s an ever-widening skills gap,” Rust said. “Learning has never been so important.”
A major re-think of U.S. educational systems, from kindergarten all the way through college, is long overdue. Unfortunately, the kinds of changes that would go a long way toward producing American workers with globally competitive skills are not being properly addressed.