The gap between new employees’ workforce readiness skills and what is actually needed on the job is huge. An analysis of results from a survey of employers conducted by a consortium that includes The Conference Board, ASTD, Corporate Voices, and SHRM, says the following:
Employers report hiring substantial numbers of new entrants who are poorly prepared, requiring additional company investment to improve workforce readiness skills. And while many employers provide workforce readiness or remedial training to bring their new entrants up to speed, many report less than strong results. The results of the survey accompanying this report raise the question whether compensating for poorly prepared new workforce entrants with on-the-job workforce readiness training is the most effective way to address the readiness gap.
Something needs to be done about this gap in order for companies to make it through the recession successfully. President Obama’s response to this gap is the American Graduation Initiative. Obama is proposing to spend $12 billion on community colleges for the purpose of preparing more people for work.
The President said in a speech at Macomb Community College in Michigan:
…there are all kinds of examples of what's possible. We've seen Cisco, for example, working with community colleges to prepare students and workers for jobs ranging from work in broadband to health IT. We know that the most successful community colleges are those that partner with the private sector. So we want to encourage more companies to work with schools to build these types of relationships. That way, when somebody goes through a training program, they know that there's a job at the end of that training.
I applaud this investment in community colleges (Full disclosure: I’m an elected trustee of a community college.), especially the part that links employers to individuals attending community college. Even conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks likes what he is hearing about the President’s initiative. He writes:
The Obama initiative is designed to go right at these deeper problems. It sets up a significant innovation fund, which, if administered properly, could set in motion a spiral of change. It has specific provisions for remedial education, outcome tracking and online education. It links public sector training with specific private sector employers.
The Conference Board report cites programs at several community colleges that say they have been very successful in linking students to companies and jobs. This is a useful relationship because many companies, especially small businesses, do not have the resources or the capability to adequately prepare people for the world of work and train them in the innovation and management skills that are needed in organizations today. Community colleges can help them address this problem. Employers should work with community colleges as equal partners in preparing students for jobs that will help make these companies successful. Employers should not wait for federal funding and new federal initiatives, which could be delayed in Congress. Employers should initiate contact with their local community colleges (as well as local private and public four-year colleges and universities) and plan a program together that prepares students for real jobs in their companies.