Connecting the dots on jobs
May 02, 2011
First the good news from a 2011 Global Conference panel on creating jobs in the United States: CEO surveys show that businesses plan to hire in the next 12 months. Now the bad news: We lost so many jobs during the downturn that we are starting from a deep hole. If you count the underemployed and the discouraged, the picture is dire.

Panelists agreed that globalization and technology have changed the rules of the game. The United States doesn't want to chase low-wage, low-value jobs. But we'll have to come to grips with retraining workers to give them the skills that employers now need. Deborah Wince-Smith of the Council on Competitiveness described a creative model from the pipefitters and plumbers union, which takes the initiative to training the next generation of workers - even proactively recruiting returning veterans for these good-paying jobs.

Where will we find the money to invest in retraining? Mary Kay Henry of SEIU believes we have to revisit the current tax cuts. "We have to have a revenue conversation in this country," putting all options on the table for dealing with the employment crisis.

She discussed the need for creative public-private partnerships, including unions, to tackle the issue of investing in the workforce. Education cuts are eating into our ability to train nurses, for example, although there's an unmet demand for these workers.

At that very moment, just down the hall, another session highlighted the aging of our population - and the speakers pointed to that very shortage of skilled nurses and other health-care workers as a critical issue. The demographic trends couldn't be clearer. As the baby boomers age, there will be a scramble to meet their health-care needs.

Could smart, targeted investments in developing the right human capital pay twice the dividends?