How Can America Narrow The Widening Skills Gap?

Mar 28 2014, 11:33am CDT | by

How Can America Narrow The Widening Skills Gap?
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

There’s a widening gap in the United States between unemployed individuals and companies in need of work. While many young adults can’t find jobs, many employers say they can’t find enough qualified applicants for filling skilled jobs.

The question is what can be done to address that. On Friday at the Forbes Reinventing America conference, educators united with nonprofits and business leaders to discuss this pressing issue.

Cheryl Hyman, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, addressed several reasons why the skills gap exists: “First, there’s an information gap. 115,000-120,000 students show up at our colleges every year. Besides the basic things they’ve heard, they don’t understand that there are 84,000 open jobs in health care, 100,000 or more coming in transportation. How can we give them the skills they need if they don’t know what’s out there? The other thing is that employers must become part of the educational curriculum to ensure that our degrees are reflective of what’s important in the workforce today.”

Marie Trzupek Lynch, CEO of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, runs a non-profit that tries to connect those employers to the education of potential workers. “Employers are often incredibly willing and interested, but they don’t have the time or talent or energy to crack the code,” she says. In the last seven months, they’ve placed 700 unemployed people with major employers.

“It’s a little bit about redefining the partnership – business, industry, education,” says Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon. She’s helping bring corporations into college life, opening up sponsorships and freshman experiences.

“We have to take people in those low opportunity segments and give them the American experience,” says Simon. “In the right place, they do well. We have to grow more of them.”

Much of the change is happening at community colleges, where graduation rates are often in the single digits. “Community colleges have typically been focused on access, but you must couple access with success,” says Hyman. “If not, companies like Samsung can’t find the workforce they need.”

Hyman works to bring more flexible curriculum into her colleges, including “stackable” certificates that build to a four-year degree. “Community colleges cannot become short order cooks. We have to prepare students for a career, not just a job,” she says.

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7 Financial Skills Every 20-Year-Old Needs To Know

Source: Forbes Business


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