Saturday, October 13, 2007

Workforce Development- Part I: U.S. Economists Highlight Major Shifts in Job Market

This month the EDC board of directors will begin discussion about the future of the workforce in the Greater Owensboro region. A highly skilled and educated workforce is a top issue for many existing industries in the region. The GO-EDC will implement a number of initiatives in the coming year to address this issue.

Within the past year, three major studies done independently of one another have come to remarkably similar conclusions about the links between education and economic development. The Education Testing Service (the SAT Company) released “America’s Perfect Storm.” The National Center on Education and the Economy published “Tough Choices or Tough Times.” And the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (a coalition of companies like BellSouth, Ford, Texas Instruments, etc.) came forth with its own findings. Their conclusions:
  • The world has changed – and changed dramatically – but our system of education (its goals, approaches, and learning environment) has largely stayed the same. We are essentially preparing our young people to work in 20th century manufacturing jobs – jobs that increasingly do not exist.
  • The US is falling behind other developed countries in high school graduation rates, postsecondary attendance, and reducing inequality. The US ranks 16 out of 21 highly developed nations with respect to high school graduation rates.
  • 40%-60% of the jobs in 2015 do not currently exist. The future lies in creative work: research, development, design, marketing and sales, global supply chain management.
  • Most good new jobs will require at least 2 years of postsecondary education or training. Specific growth sectors include health care and occupations associated with the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
  • A baccalaureate degree is the new ticket to prosperity in the US.

Last week’s (October 11) Wall Street Journal had an interesting page-two story about the vanishing middle of the U.S. job market. As Harvard economists Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin put it, “U.S. employment has been polarizing into high-wage and low-wage jobs, at the expense of traditional middle class jobs.”

The reason—the economic transformation of the economy through forces associated with globalization and technology. The U.S. is losing manufacturing jobs and two kinds of what Ed Learner calls “geek” jobs and “grunt” jobs—or what Richard Florida termed creative sector jobs and service sector jobs. These are challenges that we have nationally and regionally to remain competitive in the future.

Next: Workforce issues in Owensboro and how EDC is working with various partner agencies to address this “Perfect Storm.”

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