Winning the Global Talent Showdown: How Businesses and Communities Can Partner to Rebuild the Jobs Pipeline

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In the next few years the world will be facing a huge talent shortage. Demographic trends in America, Europe, Russia, and Japan are reducing the pool of new workers. As the need for talent grows, China's and India's educational systems won't be able to produce enough qualified graduates for themselves, let alone the rest of the world. But the heart of the problem is that the education-to-employment system worldwide is badly outmoded. We're not producing graduates with the kinds of technical, communications, and thinking skills needed in the 21st century. In Winning the Global Talent Showdown, Ed Gordon surveys the sorry state of the world talent pipeline, with separate chapters on the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Each region faces its own challenges, yet the result is the same: a dramatic shortage of workers who can function in what Gordon calls our "cyber-mental" age. But this is fundamentally a book about solutions. Gordon argues that we need to completely reinvent our talent-creation system-and some pioneering efforts are already underway. He describes dozens of "gateways to the future," innovative partnerships in which local governments, schools, businesses, labor unions, parents, training organizations, community activists, and others are collaborating to develop completely new approaches to education. Based on personal experience, Gordon outlines how concerned citizens can establish these partnerships in their own communities. And he looks down the road to 2020, explaining how we can build on the best of these new ideas so that the jobs pipeline flows freely again.

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CHAPTER 1: THE AMERICAS

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Latin America faces a critical choice. It is a choice between the past and the future… a commitment to sustainable human development.

— Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico

We will begin our world tour with the Western Hemisphere as we examine how the global talent showdown is affecting North, Central, and South America. The United States will be our first stop. In late 2007 the World Economic Forum, a Swiss-based think tank, gave the United States the top spot in its annual report on global competitiveness. It praised the United States’ market efficiency and ability to innovate. This ranking may not last, however, because the U.S. talent pool is drying up. An obsolete twentieth-century education-to-employment system can no longer cope with the realities of a twenty-first-century global labor market.

Until 2010 overall growth in the U.S. workforce will be sustained by importing foreign workers and by members of the echo-boom generation (the children of the baby boomers, sometimes16 called Generation Y or the Millennial Generation) who have reached working age. However, in 2008 labor-force growth began dropping to near zero and is predicted to remain there until 2030. Labor shortages have begun to grow across the country in a broad range of employment sectors, leading to wage inflation as employers compete for fewer and fewer talented people to fill vacant critical positions across the entire economy even as many are left unemployed.

 

CHAPTER 2: ASIA

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The tigers and dragons must make haste.

Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Asia today contains more than half the world’s population. The IT revolution’s collapse of communication and information costs, low sea and air transportation costs, and ongoing economic liberalization have again given Asia’s nations significant power in the world economy.

In the 1980s, “Japan, Inc.” was seemingly on the road to taking over the world’s economy. Faltering U.S. businesses enviously studied Japanese companies. (Remember the rage for Quality Circles?) Rockefeller Center in New York, Pebble Beach in California, and large chunks of Hawaii were purchased by titanic Japan. Land values in Japan soared, at one point reaching such a height that the acreage of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace was more valuable than the entire GDP of Canada. Then, in the early 1990s, Japan’s bubble burst, producing a dismal economy for the next decade. Now it is41 suddenly China and India’s turn to soar. Countless pundits predict that China’s ability to manufacture almost anything cheaply and India’s IT revolution will eclipse the U.S. economy. Distinguished economic historian Angus Maddison predicts that China’s economy will pass the United States by 2030, with India becoming the third-largest economy. But just as the Japanese bubble burst, there today are serious social, political, and economic challenges ahead in the future paths of China, India, and the other nations of Asia.1

 

CHAPTER 3: EUROPE AND RUSSIA

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What we need to do on skills, productivity and enterprise is fairly obvious. We just need to get on and do it.

—Tony Blair, Former British Prime Minister

March 2007 was the fiftieth anniversary of the EU success story. Founded as an economic pact by six Western European nations, the EU has grown to twenty-seven member states, 500 million people, and an economy equal in size—though not in strength—to that of the United States.

Today millions of Europeans cross their national borders without showing a passport. A single currency, the Euro, unites these economies as never before. Yet each nation is struggling to keep its cultural identity while pledging support to something bigger.

During the next decade, a talent crisis will add to the dilemma at the core of the EU, which is itself part success story, part unfinished70 grand vision. Skill gaps have already appeared.1 Nearly four in ten European youths are unemployed, often as a result of a lack of basic skills or unwillingness or inability to relocate for labor market opportunities across Europe, a separate EU study concluded.2

 

CHAPTER 4: EXPANDING THE TALENT POOL

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Who says all those young graduates are going to be feckless, ill-disciplined and unwilling to work? Why do we presume older people have less to offer and that they have to be written off once the wrinkles and grey hair start to predominate? In a world of limited and diminishing natural resources, the waste of human talent we see today based on such prejudice is worse than a crime — it is a blunder.

—Stefan Stern, Management Guru

As we have seen, the worldwide supply of talent is drying up. Much of the world faces a grim labor-economic future caused by declining birthrates and the retirement of the enormous boomer generation with their STEM skills. In addition, generational work-life differences frequently disrupt the workplace. How employers100 address these differences will be crucial for recruiting younger workers and holding on to them.

Slower workforce growth is increasing pressure for all labor-force segments to more fully participate in workforce recruitment. Technological advances will enable an increase in nontraditional work arrangements. As the competition for high-skill talent heats up over the next decade, these various accommodations will increase the level of workforce participation by older people, women with children, individuals with disabilities, former prisoners, and others. In this chapter, we will see how employers are working to attract and keep skilled talent of all kinds.

 

CHAPTER 5: FIXING THE EDUCATION-TO-EMPLOYMENT SYSTEM

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Every enterprise is a learning and teaching institution. Training and development must be built into it on all levels—training and development that never stops.

—Peter Drucker

Across the United States a wide spectrum of secondary-education career initiatives is now under way. These are local community collaborations with business, foundations, public entities, and nonprofit organizations. They represent an essential component in rebuilding the local education-to-employment talent pipeline. Let us look at a cross-section of these schools.

For more than forty years, Philadelphia Academies, Inc. has provided the talent to hundreds of city and regional businesses through the United States’ oldest career-academy program. Philadelphia Academies, Inc. is a nonprofit organization funded by the local business community to provide career-focused programming that prepares students for employment and postsecondary education.

In 1968 Philadelphia experienced some of the worst riots in the city’s history. Economic stagnation, poverty, and soaring unemployment had planted the seeds of growing discontent. In tackling this crisis, community, business, education, labor, and government leaders forged a new coalition. They decided to focus on the soaring high school dropout rate.

 

CHAPTER 6: PRODUCING NEW TALENT

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We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty that needs to be done.

—Alan Furing, father of modern computer science, 1950

Those nations that better manage their talent resources will become more productive and competitive. Future growth in most nations around the globe will hinge on businesses putting their people resources to more efficient use. The comparative advantage of the developed economies is the existence of high-value, knowledge-intensive activities. Future employment will have to shift toward an increase in higher-skill-based jobs if such nations are to maintain their economic growth. Nations whose cultures resist this talent shift risk being left behind.1

The international business community has a huge stake in overcoming the education shortcomings in both developed and developing145 nations. Traditionally, U.S. business has treated the development of education and talent as a part-time charitable activity. But now the global talent crisis is forcing business leaders to think again about sustainability. Hau Lee, a professor at Stanford University, defines sustainability as “ensuring that we are using resources today that will not jeopardize the resources of tomorrow.” Self-interest now compels businesses to better develop talent resources today, so there will be a tomorrow.2

 

RESOURCE A

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In this section you will find a mix of solutions being used to tackle the global talent shortage.

Across the United States a wide spectrum of secondary education career initiatives is rebuilding the local education-to-employment talent pipeline. You will find more information about a cross-section of these schools here.

Austin Polytechnical Academy, http://www.austinpolytech.com

California Academy of Mathematics and Science, http://www.californiaacademy.org

Center for Advanced Research and Technology, http://www.cart.org

Cristo Rey, http://www.cristoreynetwork.org

Minuteman Regional High School, http://www.minuteman.org

National Career Academy Coalition, http://www.ncacinc.com

Philadelphia Academies, Inc., http://www.academiesinc.org

The Met, http://www.metcenter.org

The following programs are examples of innovative ways to encourage students to explore careers in engineering.

Figure 6: Engineering Career Exploration Examples

Source : Edward E. Gordon, 2009.

The North Carolina Career Outlook Handbook, published annually since 2003, is a key resource for parents, students, and job seekers. It offers detailed information about a wide variety of career clusters, including business technologies, engineering technologies, and the health sciences. You can download a free copy at http://www.nccareeroutlook.com.

 

RESOURCE B

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