Capitol Ideas Mar/April 2014

Technological advancements, particularly in the manufacturing area, mean that workers need more specialized skills to both get and keep jobs. To get to those skilled workers, companies must make a decision: Look for new, qualified employees or retrain their current workforce.

A 2011 study by Deloitte for the Manufacturing Institute found that American manufacturing companies could not fill as many as 600,000 positions—or 5 percent of manufacturing jobs—due to a lack of qualified candidates, and 56 percent of manufacturers anticipate that shortage will increase in the next three to five years. Technological advancements, particularly in the manufacturing area, mean that workers need more specialized skills to both get and keep jobs. States are stepping forward to help solve these issues, creating or expanding programs aimed at helping the private sector get the skilled labor force they need to be competitive.

When policymakers think about economic development, it usually involves things like tax exemptions, matching funds or infrastructure development. What happens in classrooms, however, rarely enters into the equation. Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who is serving as The Council of State Governments’ 2014 chair, believes it’s time to change that.

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