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Business Roundtable (BRT) is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote sound public policy and a thriving U.S. economy.

CEOs tell legislators: To compete, U.S. needs skilled workers

Aug 10, 2012
Carter Wood

Two BRT-member CEOs -- Doug Oberhelman of Caterpillar and Edward Rust of State Farm Mutual -- highlighted industry's need for skilled employees in a discussion Thursday about how best to create jobs.

From The Chicago Tribune, "Manufacturing hurt by shortage of quality applicants, CEO says ":

Six of every 10 applicants for basic manufacturing jobs don't qualify because they lack a basic education or don't pass a drug test, Caterpillar Chief Executive Doug Oberhelman said Thursday in Chicago.

"We are customers to that education system that we see failing in this country and other competitors around the world are exceeding in their education system," said Oberhelman, whose company last year had revenue of $60 billion. The job-creation round table was sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Edward Rust Jr., State Farm Mutual's chief executive, said the U.S. needs workers with verbal and written communication skills, people who can think critically and possess intellectual curiosity.

"The consequences of not addressing this are much greater than they appear, perhaps, today," Rust said.

The discussion, "The Business of Creating Jobs," was moderated by Business Roundtable President John Engler. Other topics noted by the Tribune story included the role of incentives in attracting companies to a state.

The NCSL has also posted a video of the concluding remarks from Oberhelman and Engler.

Prompted by a question, Oberhelman had provocative comments about how business is perceived today in the United States:

For some reason, and I don't know how it's happened -- we've talked a lot about this, Ed [Rust] and I, and a lot of business people -- the country that was built on private entrepreneurs and business now for the most part hates that society and resents it or... I'm not quite sure what.

And we have an obligation in business, because some of the bad apples in business have really contributed to a bad reputation for business, and we've all got to watch that and clean that up.

But having said that, I don't know how that's turned, really in my lifetime, where you were a businessman, a hardware store owner, a car dealer, a State Farm agent -- [you were] a pillar of the community. And today, that's changed so much. 

We've really got to watch that, because we have competitors out there all the time.

The transcript of the video is here.

 

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Senior Communications Advisor
Business Roundtable

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