March 15, 2013

Another View: Workforce development requires business and schools join forces

The jobs of the future will require skills that most present workers don't yet have.

By CHRIS HALL

WEX CEO Michael Dubyak and his business colleagues understand something every businessperson needs to know: We are all responsible for tomorrow's work force.

By establishing "Project Login," Dubyak has helped create a partnership with Maine's higher education system that matches Maine students with real world workplace experiences and provides a model to attack the skills gap challenge in the state. The Press Herald's March 8 editorial was spot on ("Our View: Business partnership aims to span skills gap").

Part of our current challenge is that we not only need to train students for the jobs in today's work force, but we also need to train students for the jobs of the future. And the confounding reality is we don't even know the full scope of what those jobs looks like.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 60 percent of all new jobs in the 21st Century will require skills that only 20 percent our current work force possess.

Compounding this challenge is the additional fact that almost nine out of every 10 new jobs created in Maine between 2008 and 2018 will require some formal education beyond high school. Yet our students are not striving for post-secondary education at the same rate. Business leaders are committed to filling this training shortage by offering project-based and work-based learning opportunities to help students develop solid collaboration and critical thinking skills and to improve their oral and written communication skills. These are deeper learning skills that will allow them to compete among a global work force and help Maine's businesses and the state's economy to continue to grow and prosper.

Providing high-quality education and training is the best way to prepare the workers of today for the jobs of tomorrow.

Chris Hall is the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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