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Editor’s Note: Building a Skilled Workforce for the 21st Century

Government, business, and academic leaders are attempting to build a workforce for 21st century careers that require STEM talent and specialized skills.

Workforce 2014
Workforce issues have come to the forefront in business location and expansion decisions. For the last several years, the media has been reporting that some 600,000 manufacturing jobs are going unfilled because qualified workers cannot be found to take up these positions.

In fact, Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), just reiterated this concern to the North Carolina Chamber’s Summit on Manufacturing. He is quoted as saying, “Among our most urgent priorities is ensuring that manufacturers have the talent to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.

With this in mind, Area Development has decided to produce its first publication and series of content devoted to workforce issues. The articles in this series describe how government, business, and academic leaders are attempting to build a workforce for 21st century careers. It’s noted that more than 70 percent of today’s jobs require more than a high school education, but also more specialized, skills-based training than one might receive from, say, a Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.

This is where programs to cultivate STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) talent come into play. Elizabeth Narehood of the Future Focus Foundation and Virginia’s Region 2000 Business & Economic Development Alliance, describes the establishment of specialized “academies” and other organizations that foster STEM talent and hands-on learning, and which work in collaboration with business, academia, and policymakers.

Many specialized training programs, as well as cash grants and other incentives, are available to companies to help them satisfy their workforce needs, say Minah Hall and Natalie Matwijiszyn of True Partners Consulting. And many states are streamlining their workforce initiatives in order to provide employers with a “one-stop shop” for all workforce-related concerns.

The importance of addressing workforce needs cannot be overstated. Mark Lautman, co-founder of Lautman Economic Architecture LLC, discusses the implications of the current “zero-sum labor” situation, i.e., more skilled workers (baby-boomers) leaving the workforce than qualified entrants coming onto the scene.

Manpower Group’s latest survey of 37,000 employers in 42 countries and territories also confirms the scope of this problem: 36 percent of the respondents to its survey say they are having difficulty finding candidates with the right skills to fill open positions. And, for the fifth consecutive year, the hardest jobs to fill – both in the U.S. and globally — are those in the skilled trades. The survey unfortunately also finds that 22 percent of employers who are experiencing talent shortages are not presently pursuing strategies to address such shortages.

Don’t let your company be one of those coming up short. We hope our premiere workforce edition will help you to get involved in the discussion and solution to building a skilled workforce for the 21st century.

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