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Improving Growth by Closing the Skills Gap
Robert Kaplan
April 12, 2017
In order to grow GDP in the United States, we've got to grow the workforce and we've got to grow
productivity. Workforce development is critical to both of us, either by helping workers, potential
workers on the sideline get trained and get back into the workforce or by helping existing workers
increase their skills so they can take a more productive job and earn a greater income in the 11th
District. In my district, we do surveys of business leaders, and they tell us regularly that they have more
openings for skilled workers than there is supply. What are examples? Pipefitters, automotive
technicians? Um, construction trades, registered nurses. There's a long list. If you take those local
reports that we each that we get in our district and other districts and you broaden that to the nation.
Our judgment is there's a substantial skills gap. I think one of the big challenges of workforce
development and the skills gap is while it's a national issue, the solutions need to be local. This is one of
those initiatives that if you're waiting for the government to solve and address this problem, either the
federal government, the state government or local government you can stop waiting. It's not going to
happen. You have to take the initiative and work with leaders to try to address these issues. So business
leaders need to first survey what they're open positions are, Uh, and if there's skills, gaps they're seen in
the local market, what are they? They then need to approach either local elected officials, workforce
development board and educational institutions and talk about whether there are opportunities to
partner either in an existing program or create a new program to create training for those types of
positions. Normally, when businesses do this, what they learn is there's many other similar businesses in
their community that have similar needs that aren't being filled. And, uh, and they could be even more
influential with a local junior college or high school or college to provide those programs because it
means the college knows. Or the high school knows they have a much greater chance to get more
students in, and that there's a demand for those positions.