This November, the American people elected a new President and Congress. One of these leaders’ major responsibilities will be to guide the country through an evolving global economy and improve our competitiveness by preparing the American workforce for the 21st century. This year, Congress has the opportunity to help achieve this goal by taking steps to close the growing skills gap.
In a recent Business Roundtable survey, 94 percent of CEOs reported the skills gap as a significant challenge for their companies and their industries. They are concerned businesses will not able to fill available jobs, which slows job creation and wage growth, hampers productivity, and weighs down our economy as a whole. In an environment marked by constant technological progress and innovation, we must ensure our country’s workforce has the skills it needs to keep pace.
The need is particularly urgent in the area of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) training. At Northrop Grumman, we depend on a deep pool of talented and highly skilled workers. To this end, we have partnered with schools and universities across the country to develop curricula and programs that will give students the opportunities to build skills in growing fields such as cyber and robotics.
Industry, however, cannot address this challenge alone. The federal government has a critical role in advancing common-sense policy reforms that will help equip American workers with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. The House of Representatives took a great step in this direction in September by passing a bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act. The bill passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 405–5. This legislation will help better align career and technical programs with the workforce demands of today’s economy. I strongly urge the Senate to follow suit and pass the Carl D. Perkins Act this year.
Another concrete step Congress can take in the near future to address our workforce challenges is to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, which supports several important higher education programs. Reauthorization will address these challenges by preparing a workforce to meet the demands of today’s economy and establish long-term strategies to strengthen STEM education.
The CEOs of Business Roundtable are looking forward to partnering with our new President and Congress to create an environment where all Americans have a real chance to succeed. We hope our government leaders will share our commitment to empowering American workers by equipping them with the necessary skills to thrive in this evolving economy.