2016 election campaign: focus on skills

We’re at halftime between the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and most people really want to know what the next president plans to do for them:

“How do I get a better job, make more money, raise a family, buy a house, take care of my aging parents or save for college?”

Both Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton say they will improve the economy. They talk about tax policy reform, trade and the global economy, entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. These are all important topics to be sure, but a long way from a core issue for Americans: our jobs.

What do you do when you want to grow the economy and make life better for working people? You focus on jobs and skills.

A lack of focus on these two issues has a direct impact on real people, and keeps our economy from reaching its full potential.

For example, from 2009 to 2012, the advanced manufacturing industry in New England should have grown at a rate of 12%. Instead, it only grew 7% because there were 18,000 jobs that went unfilled. In Maryland, there are more than 18,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs today – nationally, there are over 200,000.

Everyday across this country, there are people making less money than they should because they don’t have the right skills, leaving companies without the skilled workers they need to grow, and leaving our economy without the infusion of dollars from these workers’ tax contributions.

Companies and people are making less money and the economy suffers, not because there isn’t opportunity, but because no one can take advantage of the opportunities that already exist!

How do you solve this problem? You make a process that everyone can understand and use – a process that clearly identifies the skills that employers need; one that makes it clear to employees and job seekers the exact skills required to get good jobs. And it must be a demand-driven process – that is, it must start with the employers because they have the jobs needing to be filled.

Using platforms like SkillSmart, employers can identify the specific skills they need for each position they have. Employees and job seekers can then build individual profiles based on their work and life experiences to see how closely their skills match to those positions. Additionally – and, maybe, most importantly – education and training content can be tailored to meet those industry-specific skills needs.

Too often candidates spend more money for education and training because it sounds like the right answer without knowing which education actually needs to be provided.

The technology now exists to align local, regional and national markets to employers, job seekers, educators and resources so industries like cybersecurity, manufacturing, and others can fill more contracts, while workers can earn better salaries and education resources can be used more efficiently.

This new approach won’t solve every problem, but if every company can find skilled workers, and every job seeker can learn the skills the markets need, then we will go a long way to answering the questions that Americans are most concerned about everyday, and especially during this election season.