Investing in Our Workers
The world is becoming more competitive. After World War II and the passage of the GI Bill, access to higher education in the United States increased, and we had the highest percentage of young adults with some sort of post-high school education in the world. Today, we’re 16th in the world in the percentage of 25 to 34 year olds earning post-high school degrees.1 To compete in the global economy, we must ensure that we are preparing our workforce with the skills for the jobs of the 21st century.
As I travel around the state, small business owners continually tell me that one of the main problems they face is a lack of skilled workers. Even when they have job openings available, they do not have the workforce they need to grow their businesses. This problem is not unique. A nationwide survey of 2,000 businesses by the McKinsey Global Institute found that 40 percent had positions open for at least six months without qualified workers to fill them.2 An International Monetary Fund study estimates that 25 percent of unemployment is caused by a mismatch between the skills workers have and the needs of employers. Using his estimation, 3 million more people would be employed if we bridge the skills gap.3
The economic strategy I laid out earlier in this campaign centered on the need to develop a talent economy by bolstering and reforming our education system so we can continue our role as an economic powerhouse. People are our nation’s most valuable resource, and we must ensure we give our citizens the best education to unleash their potential.
As Senator, I’ll work with educators, parents, and business leaders to make sure the needs of employers match the skills taught in our schools. Specifically, we must ensure each student receives an individualized education, put a renewed focus on science, technology, and math (STEM) education, career and technical education (CTE), and workforce development programs to increase overall employment, create opportunities for our workers and businesses, and strengthen our economy.
No child is identical to another, and there is no one-size-fits all solution to education. Each child enters a classroom with unique abilities, experiences, and needs. We must harness those strengths, identify learning patterns, and use that information to create a personalized learning experience for each student. Read more
STEM-related jobs are projected to grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018. It’s clear we need to make STEM education a priority. High school students from industrialized countries around the world took a test to see where each nation stands in science and math achievement. American students ranked 19th in science and 24th in math, further demonstrating a downward trend for American STEM education over the past few decades. Given the significance of STEM for our nation’s prosperity and security, this is a trend that cannot continue. Read more
As a nation, we must embrace the importance of career and technical programs and the positive effect they can have on employment. In the 1980s, I served as principal of a technical school in Honduras and saw firsthand the impact these schools can have. As a result, when I became Governor, I made it a priority to develop nine Governor’s Career and Technical Academies in Virginia. Read more
In order to maximize the impact of the federal government’s investment in workforce development, we must create a more streamlined system that is easier for both employers and workers to use. When I was Governor, I simplified the workforce development system in the state significantly, minimizing confusion and leading to a more effective program. Read more
1OECD, Education at a Glance 2011. September 13, 2011.
2McKinsey Global Institute, An Economy That Works: Job Creation and America’s Future. June 2011.
3International Monetary Fund, New Evidence on Cyclical and Structural Sources of Unemployment. May 2011.