Faced with the immediate threats-of international tensions and economic recession-it is easy for the nation to overlook future workforce conditions that threaten the health of our economy. This American Assembly calls on America’s civic, education, labor, and business leaders to understand and address this looming crisis, which threatens the nation’s prosperity and democratic future.
This Assembly thinks it is especially important for private business to play a leading role in this effort. For more than thirty years, a variety of efforts have attempted to increase support for traditional workforce development activities. Those efforts have experienced, at best, mixed success, in part because the business sector did not perceive that the system met its needs for trained and productive workers and small and medium-sized firms were not organized and supported to participate effectively in the system. If there is one lesson that successful workforce intermediary efforts have taught us, it is that business sector involvement is critical to success. This has been demonstrated by Project QUEST in San Antonio and elsewhere, and will prove true for any national effort to address these issues.
Business leaders, who create jobs, must be actively and immediately approached, invited and tasked to become key actors in local, state, and national consciousness-raising efforts. This effort could take the form of a national commission, a business-led summit, a major public awareness and media campaign, or any and all of these. This Assembly thinks these issues should be immediately debated and made part of the public policy agenda.
At the same time, given the realities of competing pressures that make it hard for this issue to be heard, this Assembly also recommends the following steps.