What a year! As we reflect back on 2008, we must say this is one for the record books. In addition to a historic presidential election, we have also seen the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The current recession and global economic downturn may last for months to come and have some predictable cycles including slumping sales, rising unemployment and tight private- and public-sector budgets. In addition to these short-term economic challenges, our society will also face some long-term challenges. Foremost among these will be how we bridge the talent gap relative to the new 21st century innovation economy.

Beyond the current economic crisis are long-term economic trends. These include new economic growth sectors in “green” technologies leading to energy independence, bio-medical technology, robotics, Dilemmananotechnology and infrastructure reinvestment. These new sectors will drive economic growth for the foreseeable future. Our dilemma? We face a 21st century economy with a 20th century workforce. Here are some examples:

The above examples illustrate that we will have some serious challenges for the foreseeable future in producing the quantity and quality of workforce necessary to compete in the new global knowledge and innovation economy. Ironically, the slumping economy will produce increasing numbers of dislocated workers as economic conditions decline and unemployment rises. In addition, we have literally millions of unemployed or undereducated workers lacking the increased skill set for the new economy. How we address this dilemma will determine our ability to compete and prosper as a society in the 21st century. iBi