As business leaders representing every sector of the economy, Business Roundtable members know that the American economy thrives when U.S. workers have the levels of education and training needed to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow. Our country needs a world-class, skilled workforce to lead in global innovation, ensure future economic growth and drive job creation.
Unfortunately, the U.S. skills gap is real and growing. According to a Business Roundtable member survey, 94 percent of CEOs report that skills gaps are problematic for their companies. This talent gap affects all skill levels – from entry level to the highly technical.
More must be done now to strengthen the education and training pipeline serving youth and working adults so that individuals have the skills needed to be prepared to work and build sustainable career paths.
A persistent complaint by employers is that many high school and college graduates – as well as some adult workers – lack foundational skills needed in the 21st century workplace. These include, for example, analyzing complex texts, adapting to new technologies and problem solving.
Rigorous academic standards in K-12 English language arts and mathematics are critical to ensuring all students graduate from high school ready for college and the workforce. Business Roundtable supports the full adoption and implementation of high-quality education standards and aligned assessments to raise the performance of U.S. students. Business Roundtable also supports policies and programs that ensure all students read on grade level by the end of third grade.
Businesses increasingly have difficulty finding employees with the knowledge and training required to meet their workforce needs. This includes both technical skills – such as aptitude in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – and applied skills – such as leadership, problem-solving and communications abilities. This misalignment of skills exacerbates unemployment and stifles economic growth.
Business Roundtable believes a multifaceted solution, involving public and private players, is needed to address this skills mismatch problem. As a start, employers must send a clear, direct “demand signal” of the foundational attributes employees must demonstrate to succeed in the workplace; industry needs to sort out the large and chaotic world of industry credentials; state workforce boards and educational and training centers must understand job needs in each region and focus on helping students acquire the skills needed to fill those jobs; and human resources practices must improve across industry to identify competencies gained through valid credential programs and relevant experience.
Business Roundtable will continue to advocate for federal legislation that authorizes programs and policies that improve educational outcomes and help close the skills gap, including reauthorization of America COMPETES, the Carl D. Perkins Act and the Higher Education Act.