by Tammy Klugh
Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion
Kelly Services, Inc.
My Business is to help build a diverse pipeline of talent for our clients in areas such as science, IT, engineering, and healthcare. Given the recent recession, one would think that finding qualified talent for these positions would be easy. Wrong.
Persistently high unemployment masks a widening gap between the skills required by the marketplace and the skills available. Consider that in the U.S., in computer and mathematical sciences occupations, there are over four advertised vacancies for every unemployed job seeker, and that ratio never dropped below 2:1 even in the depths of the recession.
[sws_pullquote_right] “Education is key to closing these skill gaps for future generations. U.S. children will be competing for jobs on a global scale, and our country loses competitive ground each year we fail to address this reality.”[/sws_pullquote_right]
Education is key to closing these skill gaps for future generations. U.S. children will be competing for jobs on a global scale, and our country loses competitive ground each year we fail to address this reality. We’re all familiar with studies showing that U.S. students score lower in math and science than their global counterparts. What I find even more troubling is the educational divide within the U.S. when it comes to race and ethnicity.
2009 NAEP scores show that 12th-grade Black and Hispanic children are struggling much more than their White counterparts in reading, math, and science. They’re struggling not because of their race, but because they rely disproportionately on urban schools for their K-12 foundation. Yet these Black and Hispanic students will make up almost 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2050. If we refuse to acknowledge and correct the consequences of allowing our urban schools to fail, how do we expect to have a competitive workforce in the decades ahead?
I know a short op-ed and a few statistics can’t begin to scratch the surface of this issue. But I also know that as a nation, we cannot turn a deaf ear to the business leaders around the world who question the preparedness of the U.S. workforce, and who wonder whether they will have to look elsewhere for the talent that will keep their companies competitive.
We need to commit to America’s children that we will equip them with the building blocks to compete in the 21st century: hard skills of math, science, and technology, coupled with intricate skills of creativity, self-discipline, strategic thinking, and teamwork. They need to know their access to these skills won’t depend on being born in the right ZIP code. It’s time to rally as one United States of America to develop the skills and talents of all children regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic access. That is a commitment we simply cannot afford to break.
Tammy Klugh is Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion for Kelly Services, Inc., a leader in providing workforce solutions. She holds a JD from Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Mich. and a bachelor’s degree in English and political science from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition | Oct 24-26 2011
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