By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy attended a session that focused on workforce shortages and opportunities at the 115th annual Winter Meeting, held in Washington D.C. on February 11.
According to the National Governors Association (NGA), there are currently over 10 million job openings in the U.S., but only 5.7 million unemployed individuals are looking for work. The upsetting statistic has led government officials, notably the Chair of the NGA, Governor Murphy, to speak on the topic.
“The growth and resilience of our country’s economic future depend on our ability to open new pathways and expand opportunities for our workforce,” said Governor Murphy. “Governors are focused on working with the business community and with educators to develop training that prepares workers for open jobs in growing fields.”
At the annual event, 55 governors met with federal officials and leaders from various businesses, academia, and philanthropy to conduct conversations on this looming issue of lack of workers. The meeting focused on developing training opportunities to ‘reskill and upskill workers.’
Governor Murphy began the panel discussion when he said, “Workforce development is important to every one of us as Governors and to all of us in this room…[We’re focused on] growing the economy and not just growing the pie but making sure everybody gets a piece of the pie and that folks are well-equipped for the jobs of the 21st century.”
“Opportunities for good-paying jobs are growing, but we face a nationwide workforce shortage,” said Montana Governor Greg Gianforte during the three-day Winter Meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA).
United States Governors met with Fortune 500 leaders on Saturday, including Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith, Cognizant CEO Ravi Kumar, and AECOM Global Transportation Chief Executive Jennifer Aument. With suggestions in mind, these individuals discussed strategies for broadband access, digital skills training, and apprenticeship programs in light of companies’ worker shortages.
“There’s no topic that’s more important than workforce,” said Governor Gianforte. “We see the ‘Help Wanted’ signs on every Main Street, in all of our communities. [The workforce shortage] is the impediment to growing our businesses and creating more prosperous outcomes for our people. When we collaborate closely with companies like the ones here on our panel, we get better outcomes.”
“We all are going to need to invest more, but then bring the right skills to the right people,” Microsoft’s Smith explained.
Smith expressed his thoughts on how to fill the 461,000 cybersecurity jobs in the United States. when he said, “It’s so clear to us that the right path is to turn to the nation’s 1,084 community colleges and get more trained faculty. We can provide free digital curriculum, but you all can help your community colleges get the faculty, you can help provide the financial support, which in some cases will make the difference in terms of whether somebody is able to go and get that degree.”
Kumar added to Smith’s suggestion and explained the importance of applying a consortium approach to workforce training to ‘bridge the gap’ between skills and opportunities. He suggests that if Governors want radical reskilling, they need a consortium. He then added how this strategy has worked in Montana.
“With a 12-week immersive training [program] that’s almost an apprenticeship, we [paired workers with] highly upwardly mobile jobs,” said Kumar. “If you create lifelong learning infrastructure, build a consortium, and use the local academic ecosystem, you do the heavy lifting along with the Governor’s teams to create those bridges.”
Though there were many opinions of what would be best regarding workforce shortage efforts, one thing all panelists agreed upon when the conversation opened up to Governors in the room is how impertinent it is to accelerate economic growth through digital technology.
AECOM’s Jennifer Augment commented on digital technology’s potential when she said, “This is the moment where we can now make a meaningful change to accelerate and maximize the role digital tools can play in execution of major transportation projects. So it’s very important to make sure there’s not a disincentive for deploying these digital tools but actually incentivize the use of these tools and to help ensure that we can put local contractors and employees to work.”
Furthermore, she commented how utilizing digital technology is critical when navigating the slow pace of permitting, which is dragging on the nation’s economy.
The session ended with Microsoft’s Smith saying that diversity in higher education is a strength and is very important when identifying a major gap that we are seeing in the workforce and ensuring that education systems are filling those needs.
“For the United States to compete in a global economy we must rebuild the American Dream to be more expansive and inclusive than ever before,” said Governor Murphy.
Though the sessions went on for three days, when the workforce shortage and opportunities session ended, Governors and others in attendance did not feel as if everything was touched upon, but time was out.
To watch the full session of the Winter Meeting and to learn more about Governors’ work on workforce development, visit https://www.nga.org/bestpractices/workforce-development-economic-policy/.
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