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Saturday, February 16, 2019
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Work Force Development

Prosperity Depends on Closing Widening Gap Between Workers’ Skills, Employers’ Needs

The Springboard Project Announces Immediate Actions to Strengthen America’s Workforce as Economy Recovers

The Business Roundtable issued final recommendations last week from its The Springboard Project – an independent commission it convened – to ensure that American workers thrive after the economy rebounds.

With a widening gap between employers’ demands for more skilled workers and workers’ skills, there is an urgent need to grow a better educated and trained workforce. The Springboard Project’s recommendations highlight specific public policy changes and business-led initiatives to overcome obstacles that thwart workers’ prosperity and threaten U.S. competitiveness.

With national unemployment rates at 10 percent, stagnant earnings and job instability plagued American workers well before the recession began because of low high school graduation rates, poor college completion rates and overall inadequate levels of education, according to the group which represents the nation’s top CEOs.

Globally, the United States ranks second-to-last among developed nations in postsecondary completion rates.  In Chatham County, the problems begin even earlier, with the continuing problem of excessive high school dropout rates.
“Though American workers remain the most productive in the world, the country risks losing that edge if we don’t foster opportunities and the expectation that workers must continually upgrade their skills throughout their careers,” according to The Business Roundtable.

“Seventy-three percent of the U.S Bureau of Labor statistics’ projected fastest growing occupations over the next six years will require some level of postsecondary or vocational credentials. Furthermore, the occupations requiring the lowest qualifications are the least secure.

Improving education is essential to building a better trained and skilled workforce,” said William D. Green, chairman & CEO of Accenture and chairman of The Springboard Project. “This must be a top national priority if America is to retain a leadership position in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

“We are recommending six initiatives – from creating incentives for boosting post-secondary achievement rates to making use of more innovation in and out of the classroom to help close our growing skills gap. One aim is to drive a double-digit increase in postsecondary graduation rates over the next 20 years. Achieving this goal will require all of us to not only advocate lifelong learning, but take an active role in creating better educated citizens.” 

In the Savannah area, several of the continuing education programs, such as at Savannah State University, have been eliminated or reduced due to revenue shortfalls at the state level.

“The Springboard Project recommendations could have a profound effect on the nation’s economy. Even a one percent improvement in college graduation rates could potentially add nearly $300 billion to the economy by 2030,” added John J. Castellani, president of Business Roundtable.”

The jobs of tomorrow will require even higher levels of education and skills, and the pace required to keep up is quickening, they state.  Therefore, The Springboard Project’s recommendations focus on both immediate and longer-term actions for government, business and educators to keep America’s workforce well prepared and competitive throughout the 21st century including:

1. Create incentives to build a better-educated and trained workforce
Increase postsecondary education and training attainment rates to meet market demand and provide personal opportunity by rewarding institutions and individuals.

2. Develop nationally recognized workforce certifications and credentials
Empower students and workers by creating nationally portable workforce skill credentials that are credible to educators and valued by employers.

3. Communicate timely and consumer-friendly information to workers
Provide valuable labor market and related education information in ways that are easily accessible, understandable and timely.

4. Bring 21st century innovation to education and training
Reinvent the delivery systems of post-secondary education and training to get better and more cost effective outcomes for more people.

5. Unlock the value of community colleges and two-year institutions
Build on the untapped potential of community colleges and two-year institutions to encourage more people to embrace postsecondary education and to revitalize local economies.

6. Foster lifelong learning
Encourage a new mindset that values lifelong learning as an essential priority for personal and national success.

The Business Roundtable plans to ask member companies to partner with at least one state; community college; or other two- or four-year college, school district or nonprofit organization. Further, it will develop Workforce 101, a Web-based, free, interactive course for high school and college students on workplace needs and expectations. Finally, Business Roundtable will reach out to other business organizations and companies to build strong support for The Springboard Project recommendations, according to Kirk Monroe, spokesperson for the group.

The Springboard Project’s members include a diverse group of education and business leaders, labor experts, union chiefs, academics, foundation heads and former government officials.

Member CEOs and corporations which operate in the Greater Savannah market include Vikram S. Pandit of The Coca-Cola Company; Francisco D’Souza of Comcast; Michael J. Ward of CSX; Herbert L. Henkel of  International Paper Company; and Peter Y. Solmssen of Southern Company.

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