The Perfect Storm in Workforce Readiness

storm.jpg Seventy-five percent (75%) of U.S economic output is now service and service related industry driven, according to the people behind the National Work Readiness Credential. More and more knowledge and information is passing between a business and its customers at every level in industries ranging from hospitality to information technology consulting, and there are over 25 million entry-level, frontline workers in the service economy.

Some businesses are developing new approaches that invest in frontline workers, those who deal directly with clients, as a key to revenue generation. The goal is to have team based frontlines that push decision-making down to entry level workers and allow them to create value in relationship with peers, managers and customers, and improve the performance of companies overall. Market leaders in this area include Best Buy, Whole Foods, Four Seasons, Southwest Airlines, Zappos and the Container Store.

Sounds great, except for one big problem. Most states/cities/communities are wholly unprepared to deliver the high quality, cost effective training that gets workers there. Consider some stats from the state of Kentucky, from a report issued by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

- By 2025, working-age population will decline by 7% while the number of citizens 65 and older will increase by 65%, this is a potential loss of 100,000 workers as baby boomers retire

- 83% of the jobs they leave behind will require workers with specialized training and two-year degrees

- Of the two thirds of the two million adults between ages 19-54 who do not hold baccalaureate degrees, only 14% plan to further their education, value of an associates degree over a lifetime is $245,000

- 37 of 100 current 9th graders will enter college, 24 will still be in their sophomore year, 12 will graduate from a 4-year college (35 of those 100 kids won't graduate from high school)

This is a perfect storm of a growing number of kids not being ready for college at the same time that more businesses are demanding better trained workers. From my work with our local community college I know that the barriers to work readiness start as far back as middle school. Eighty percent of the students entering our local community college need remediation of some sort (although I'd dare say a good majority of us would need a math brush up if we were to go back to school).

Workforce readiness is fundamentally about economic inclusiveness and, therefore, is the clear domain of philanthropy in communities across America in the coming years. We want to flag successful efforts and programs for our readers, so please let us all know what works.

Carla E. Dearing

Posted at 1:00 AM, Feb 11, 2008 in Cross-Sectoral Strategies | Economic Development | Education | Permalink | Comment