Education Holds the Key to Growth
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In June, I began a one-year term as chairman of the U.S. Chamber, and I am honored to serve the organization during its 100th anniversary.
While the phrase is often used, we are indeed living in “interesting times.” As we watch the U.S. economy struggle to regain traction and we debate ways to jump-start growth in an increasingly global marketplace, insufficient attention is being given to a key contributor to these economic headwinds: the widening gap between the skill sets of today’s students and the expanding skills required by American businesses and industries.
Businesses of all types and sizes are searching for employees with the ability to take on the challenges of working in the 21st century global economy. Studies suggest that more than 3.1 million jobs in the United States remain unfilled because applicants lack the necessary skills and knowledge.
Though our workers have been the best prepared in the world, a growing number of countries have caught and subsequently overtaken us in terms of the percentage of young people entering the workforce with the requisite skills to be productive and competitive.
Business must help frame the reality of changing skill needs. It must stand firm on the importance of a rigorous, quality education and proven competency in reading, math, science, communication, and critical thinking. It must collaborate with educators, administrators, and political leaders and be at the table and actively engaged.
While the core beliefs of the Chamber include the foundational issues of entrepreneurial growth and opportunity—ideals I believe in strongly—we can achieve little without training and educating today’s students with the skills that will be demanded of them in the future. We must all be prepared for lifelong learning.
As chairman, I look forward to working with the Chamber federation on education and workforce readiness issues as well as other issues that will grow and strengthen this nation.