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IT skills gap is really an education gap

Gary Beach | Oct. 16, 2013
Gary Beach suggests that the technology skills gap issue is really due to an education gap. When it comes to math and science education, is the United States a nation at risk?

The deeper an American student proceeded through the U.S. public education system, the further behind the rest of the world American young people fell even though, as a nation, the $600 billion the United States spends annually on public education is, by far, the most of any nation in the world)

Here's a story that illustrates why America's education gap threatens our country's future prosperity. Earlier this year I attended a technology conference that included a keynote panel on the topic of the "skills gap."

The panel members included a high-ranking official from the U.S. Department of Labor, and several business executives. As the panel began, the government official claimed that despite 12 million unemployed Americans, and nearly 4 million open job postings, jobs that cannot be filled because employers say applicants do not have the right skills for the job, "there is no skills gap in America because if there was, the Department of Labor would be monitoring higher weekly wages (because employers would have to compete with higher salaries for valued workers ) and

The existence of a national skills gap would mean lengthening of hours worked per week (because employed workers would have to work overtime to do the work of open job positions)."

As the Labor Department official ended his opening comment, one of the business executives on the panel disagreed strongly with the secretary's comments and said the following:

And then another panel member, this one the CEO of a global manufacturing firm, said, "Mr.Secretary, my firm has just concluded an internal audit of our employment needs in the coming three years. The audit claims for us to remain globally competitive our company will need to hire 5,000 IT workers. 5,000 workers"

He continued, "my business, the business of manufacturing, is changing rapidly. In fact, it has become a software-driven business. A business where software drives robots, lasers and computers on my manufacturing floor. I can source work anywhere in the world where a talented job candidate has a computer and an Internet connection. My audit concludes we will not be able to find those workers here in America."

America's education gap is real. After 60-years of widening, many, including myself, feel it is rapidly reaching a national tipping point that threatens our nation's future economic growth, the employability of our workers and our national security as the prospect of cyberwar lurks on the horizon.

I have heard this analog several times: America seems like the proverbial frog in the pot of water, content as the temperature rises slowly. But then unable to escape as it reaches 212 degrees.

In 1962, as President Kennedy was encouraging Americans to look to the end of the decade and land a person on the moon, an obscure Japanese physicist by the name of Mitsutomo Yuasa was looking back 450 years. In an essay in a Japanese scientific journal, he concluded since 1540 the world's center of scientific activity has shifted west from one country to another every 80-110 years.


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