A Publication of WTVP

“So where the heck are all the jobs?” began a recent editorial piece in The Wall Street Journal. “Eight-hundred billion in stimulus and $2 trillion in dollar-printing and all we got were a lousy 36,000 jobs last month.”

“Is Your Job an Endangered Species?”—this editorial’s title sums up the very real fears of a growing number of our nation’s workforce. It’s not just assembly-line jobs being done in by automation; many white-collar careers, once thought to be sheltered from the creative destruction, are feeling the same heat. “Technology is eating jobs,” from librarians and toll takers to travel agents and stock traders—even the legal and medical fields are being squeezed by software.

Technology is not the only factor impacting the workforce equation, of course, but it may be the most obvious one. And it’s not that there are no jobs at all. Rather, it’s the “skills mismatch” between available workers and available jobs that is the fundamental workforce challenge of our time.

That was becoming clear a decade ago, when the Talent Force 21 initiative first arose in central Illinois. In this issue, current Talent Force co-chair, Dr. John F. Gilligan, takes a look back at the philosophical underpinnings of the initiative—more relevant today than ever—and puts forth a call to action.

“It wasn’t that Americans didn’t have talent. The problem was that more than half of the talent wasn’t being developed—nor is it now. Human talent continues to be squandered and wasted—or is just atrophying.”

Certainly, the last decade has seen many positive things happen here in central Illinois, but when it comes to the workforce, the results have been mixed. I attended the first Talent Force 21 event and agree with Dr. Gilligan’s observation that employers and employees alike just did not sense the urgency of what was at stake. And many of us, perhaps, still don’t.

Naturally, it is far easier to identify the problem than it is to solve it. But I believe that the Talent Force solution—“to create a learning community in which lifelong learning is valued and prized and a natural expectation of social life”—remains the only viable answer. The pressure to upgrade one’s skills is not about to decrease. Where else does the solution lie?

A few years ago, freshly-minted college graduates could select from a variety of career opportunities; today, they are considered fortunate to find jobs at all. The outlook for the uneducated is far worse. Doing nothing is simply a recipe for disaster. 

Just as we have begun to embrace the notion of sustainability in energy matters, we must apply the same concept to workforce development. We must heed this call to action and build a sustainable culture of learning. The future of our nation depends on it. iBi