New NPR series focuses on labor-skills mismatch

“Employers have millions of jobs they are trying to fill. But in some cases, they are having trouble.”

So begins a new series on NPR about the labor-skills mismatch that we currently have in the United States, even during this recession.

While this first segment focuses on higher skilled jobs like architects, engineers, and software developers, middle-skill jobs like airplane mechanics are also noted as being difficult to fill.  Employers also focused on the importance of post-secondary credentials and experience in terms of getting hired in the current labor market.

All of this underscores the critical nature of the work we need to do to prepare our workforce for middle-skill and high-skill jobs.  If employers can’t find the workers they need, even in the midst of the worst recession in recent history, we clearly need to do a better job of aligning our training and educational systems to where the jobs are.  Of course, part of this work needs to be focused on the K-12 pipeline, integrating STEM into the curriculum, strengthening college preparation and improving basic skills.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that two-thirds of our 2020 workforce is already past high school, and many adults need opportunities to re-train or up-skill as well.  Here in Massachusetts, this means we need stronger and more adult basic education programs; better transitions to post-secondary education and training; better linkages between workforce development, adult education, higher education, and businesses; support for adults in post-secondary education; more evening/weekend/modular/accelerated certificate and credential programs; and more investment overall in public higher education.

If we can’t give our workforce the skills to compete in the 21st century economy, we’ll all lose the race.

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