For the first time in two decades there are more job opening in the United States than unemployed Americans. But a lack of college-educated workers could result in 20 million high-paying jobs going unfilled over the next decade. Securing these coveted jobs remains particularly elusive for those living in poverty who are eight times less likely to earn a college degree than their wealthier counterparts.
Forty leaders in business, education and philanthropy met at the headquarters of CFES Brilliant Pathways in Essex, NY, recently for a daylong summit to address these critical economic and social justice issues. Presidents and deans from 10 colleges and corporate leaders from Apple, Oracle, EY, GE, PriceWaterhouse, the Boston Celtics, Southwest Airlines and others identified strategies for helping students from underserved urban and rural areas become ready for the workforce of tomorrow.
One significant outcome was the need to ensure that high school and college students possess the Essential Skills currently being taught by CFES to 25,000 students in 150 urban and rural schools in 30 states and Ireland. “The No. 1 cause for failed hires is an Essential Skills problem – not a technical issue,” said Joe Fuller, Harvard Business School professor.
GE Foundation’s head of education, Kelli Wells, said Essential Skills such as agility, goal setting, leadership, networking, perseverance and teamwork, are just as important as academic skills. “You have to integrate foundational STEM principals with those Essential Skills,” said Wells.
Another key recommendation included developing partnerships between schools and businesses to foster work-based learning opportunities. Representatives from the University of Vermont shared its plans for a partnership between the six hospitals in the UVM Medical Center Network and local community colleges to address an anticipated 22 percent increase in health care needs over the next eight years.
The creation of technology-based measurement tools including apps and online resources to help students strengthen and develop the Essential Skills was also recommended. Additionally, increasing the number of college and career readiness opportunities for students in rural areas where jobs are scarce was given high priority.
For an in-depth report on the Building the Workforce of Tomorrow summit, visit