In my conversations with Vistage members, I’m hearing a great deal of consternation about how difficult it can be to identify qualified people to fill open positions. With unemployment at 9.4%, it seems counter-intuitive that CEOs can’t find the talent they need. A look behind the data reveals why.
Unemployment among those who are college educated and have relevant “new economy” skills is only 5%. The unemployment rate for non-high school graduates and only-high school graduates climbs to 15.6 % and 10.5% respectively (U.S. Bureau of Labor). A look at the Educational Attainment in 2009 shows that nearly 15% of adults over 25 have not graduated high school and, while nearly 56% have attended some college, only about 39% have either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree (U.S. Census Bureau).
The figures tell three troubling stories: 1) We have a staggering number of people in this country who lack the basic skills and education to find a job in the new economy. 2) Companies who need skilled labor are facing a shortage of talent to fill open positions. 3) The combination of the two diminishes our ability to innovate and compete on the global stage. In the U.S., the need for skilled workers is triple what it was in 1950, and we simply aren’t keeping pace. The gap between jobs and available talent is growing larger by the year, and it will likely get more pronounced unless we get serious about addressing it soon.
The data backs up the stories I hear from our Vistage members. As part of our Q2 2010 Vistage CEO Confidence Index survey, 1,619 U.S. CEOs responded to the question: “How difficult is it to find people with the right skills to drive your business growth?” The results were sobering as 71% responded, “It is difficult to find qualified talent” and an additional 10% stated, “Interviewees lacked the required skills.” The needs of our workplace are changing and changing fast, and we simply don’t have enough people with the requisite education and skills to meet the demand of today’s marketplace.
Let me offer another troubling statistic. The Alliance for Education Excellence notes, “If the high school students who dropped out of the Class of 2009 had graduated, the nation’s economy would have benefited from nearly $335 billion in additional income over the course of their lifetimes.” We just can’t let this continue. It’s more than an education crisis; it’s an economic and moral quagmire.
During the next several weeks, I plan to talk about the role of education and training not only as a driver for economic growth in the US, but also as a crucial foundation for our innovativeness and competitiveness in the global economy. Please join the conversation.