BRT Launches CEO-led and Community Partnerships to Strengthen U.S. Workforce

Business Leaders Create Regional Networks to Meet Changing Skills Needs and Expand Quality Job Opportunities

June 22nd, 2018

Washington – Business Roundtable today launched the Workforce Partnership Initiative (WPI) to tackle current and future skills development challenges and drive economic growth in seven regions around the U.S. CEOs of leading businesses will partner with local colleges and universities to accelerate and scale best-in-class workforce readiness programs and develop a steady talent pipeline that meets the changing needs of each region’s growing industries.

“Public-private sector partnership is the key to training the skilled workers we need for the millions of jobs available today and for the economy of tomorrow,” said Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase and Chair of Business Roundtable. “Through this first of its kind model, we are aligning our business priorities and technological advances to build and grow local efforts that provide workers with the skills and education tools they’ll need to succeed.”

According to the most recent estimates by the U.S. Labor Department, there are currently 6.7 million job openings in America and only 6.4 million available workers – the first time on record that the number of openings has exceeded the number of unemployed. The public-private partnerships developed and scaled through the WPI will increase the number and diversity of skilled regional workers by expanding work-based learning programs, creating new industry-recognized credentials and building new and innovative apprenticeship models.

“Today, there are more job openings in America than the number of people who are actively looking for work – a sign of the continued difficulty of U.S. employers to find workers who have the skills to fill open positions,” said Wes Bush, Chairman, CEO and President of Northrop Grumman Corporation and Chair of the Business Roundtable Education & Workforce Committee. “The WPI is a one-of-a-kind answer to this problem. Not only will these partnerships allow us to address specific workforce challenges facing regional employers, it will bring renewed hope to households and communities across the country – offering Americans of all backgrounds a chance to gain skills they can use to build a better life for themselves and their families.”

A 2016 Business Roundtable survey of 177 member companies identified four important workforce challenges that the WPI will work to address. Notable findings of the survey include:

  • 59 percent of survey respondents indicated that it was problematic finding qualified job applicants with fundamental math skills while 42 percent indicated the same for fundamental reading and writing skills.
  • Almost three-quarters of survey respondents reported it was problematic finding qualified applicants with the STEM skills needed for each of the following disciplines: cybersecurity, data science / analytics, mobile technology, engineering, computer science, and advanced mathematics. Cybersecurity was the hardest field to fill, with 87 percent of respondents indicating that it was problematic finding qualified applicants.
  • 44 percent of responding companies who employ skilled trade workers expressed difficulty finding qualified candidates for at least one skilled trade occupation.
  • A majority of respondents indicated that hiring racially and ethnically diverse candidates is problematic for the following disciplines: data science (82%), computer and mathematics (82%), architecture (82%), sales (74%), business and financial operations (70%), and life and physical sciences (81%).

PEW research also shows that Black and Hispanic workers continue to be underrepresented in the STEM workforce. Blacks make up 11 percent of the U.S. workforce overall but represent 9 percent of STEM workers, while Hispanics comprise 16 percent of the U.S. workforce but only 7 percent of all STEM workers.


One of the first WPI partnerships to launch is in the Greater Washington, D.C. region. More than a dozen of the region’s leading universities and private sector businesses will work alongside the Greater Washington Partnership to develop new, unique, industry-recognized education credentials to increase the number and quality of skilled students graduating from digital technology programs in the Greater Washington area.

The Greater Washington Partnership identified that Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia produce more digital tech talent than any other region in the United States, and yet, with the rapid pace of technological change, the region’s businesses continue to identify new areas—particularly in the fields of data analysis, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity—where education can be better aligned to support employers’ needs.

The first seven WPI regions are listed below, along with the leading Business Roundtable CEOs and the specific skills or education focus of each regional initiative. Each regional partnership will kickoff in the coming months.


Leading Business Roundtable CEO: Wes Bush, Chairman, CEO and President of Northrop Grumman Corporation

Education/Skills Focus: Work alongside local employers, colleges and universities, and the Greater Washington Partnership to develop unique, industry-recognized education credentials and increase the number of workers graduating with core digital skills competencies such as data analysis and cyber security needed in high-demand engineering and computer science occupations, and data analysis and visualization in non-technical occupations.


Leading Business Roundtable CEO: Greg Case, President and CEO of Aon; Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture;

Education/Skills Focus: Build upon the successful apprenticeship model used by Aon and Accenture to expand the number of participants and increase skills for people to enter careers in white-collar occupations such as HR, IT, software engineering and health care.


Leading Business Roundtable CEO: Blake D. Moret, President and CEO of Rockwell Automation, Inc.

Education/Skills Focus: Develop a steady pipeline of talent that meets the region’s workforce needs in the areas of industrial automation and the industrial internet of things (IIoT). This will include a large expansion of work-based learning programs that align high school programs into certificates, and then lead to apprenticeships-style opportunities at the associates-level, and on to research internships and co-op-like opportunities at the bachelor’s level.


Leading Business Roundtable CEO: Mark Weinberger, Global Chairman & CEO of Ernst & Young

Education/Skills Focus: Work with employers, their existing higher education partners, and/or technology platform companies to create new or nontraditional undergraduate pathways and upskill the existing workforce in digital fields such as artificial intelligence, data science, and design thinking.


Leading Business Roundtable CEO: Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO of IBM Corporation

Education/Skills Focus: Increase early college and two- and four-year pathways to develop the region’s workforce in technological fields including data science, cybersecurity, and cloud technology. The group will identify key workforce competencies needed for the Greater NYC region, and will engage with education partners to map those needs against existing educational offerings to determine how companies can support solutions for stronger curricular alignment and expanded student learning opportunities.


Leading Business Roundtable CEO: Lisa Davis, CEO of Siemens Corporation

Education/Skills Focus: Replicate and expand Siemens’ existing apprenticeship program in advanced manufacturing to create a new apprenticeship model in the Southeast that increases participation among Business Roundtable member companies with similar workforce needs.


Leading Business Roundtable CEO: Dennis Muilenburg, Chairman, President and CEO of The Boeing Company

Education/Skills Focus: Expand apprenticeships leading to composite certification to meet the region’s aviation manufacturing needs and increase the number of workers graduating with aerospace/mechanical/electrical engineering degrees. This will involve increasing from 40 apprenticeships for aerospace manufacturing jobs and increasing baccalaureate-level engineering jobs to support plans of regional employers to hire additional engineers.