A common complaint from employers ever since the financial crisis is that they can’t find employees with the skills businesses need. For a time this so-called structural unemployment grabbed a lot of headlines.
Whether the high unemployment rates that followed the Great Recession were structural or not is no longer an issue, with U.S. unemployment now below 4%. The most recent estimate for the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that for the first time ever there are 6.7 million jobs available and only 6.4 million workers available to fill them. Now the question is how to create a job market in which workers have the skills required by prospective employers.
The Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs representing most of the largest U.S. companies, plans to address the issue by teaming up with local colleges and universities to accelerate and scale best-in-class workforce readiness programs. The plan, called the Workforce Partnership Initiative (WPI), is designed to develop a “steady talent pipeline that meets the changing needs of each region’s growing industries.”
Roundtable Chair Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan, said:
Public-private sector partnership is the key to training the skilled workers we need for the millions of jobs available today and for the economy of tomorrow. Through this first of its kind model, we are aligning our business priorities and technological advances to build and grow local efforts that provide workers with the skills and education tools they’ll need to succeed.
Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman and chair of the Roundtable’s education and workforce committee, added:
The WPI is a one-of-a-kind answer to this problem. Not only will these partnerships allow us to address specific workforce challenges facing regional employers, it will bring renewed hope to households and communities across the country – offering Americans of all backgrounds a chance to gain skills they can use to build a better life for themselves and their families.
In the Washington, D.C., region more than a dozen of the region’s leading universities and private sector businesses will work alongside the Roundtable’s Greater Washington Partnership to “develop new, unique, industry-recognized education credentials to increase the number and quality of skilled students graduating from digital technology programs in the Greater Washington area.”
Programs are planned to launch six additional regions in the coming months.