This post was contributed by Stephen M. Wing, President of Corporate Voices for Working Families.

Sparking an economic revival and creating new jobs has no higher national priority. Yet as a national business membership organization representing companies who employ millions of Americans, Corporate Voices for Working Families grapples with a related and urgent imperative: A widespread “skills gap,” which leaves many employers struggling to fill job openings even as millions of Americans search for work. We regard this skills gap as one of the most pressing issues facing business competitiveness and the economic security of working families today.

In Across the Great Divide, a report Corporate Voices published this year in partnership with Civic Enterprises and others, 53 percent of business leaders surveyed said their companies face a “very or fairly major” challenge recruiting employees with the skills, education and training their business needs. Those at smaller companies, who were responsible for more than half of new jobs created in recent years, felt the skills gap most acutely: Fully 67 percent said it was difficult to find and hire the right employees.

In our view, addressing this crisis—the skills gap that limits the opportunities and dreams of too many Americans—is a necessary condition of success within a much needed economic revival.

We know America’s greatest resource has always been the talent of its people and the innovation of its businesses.  That’s why we are proud to be part of Opportunity Nation, an unprecedented broad-based non-partisan coalition of public, private, civilian and military organizations creating and advocating for better skills, better jobs and better communities.

We believe that only by including employers as true partners and utilizing their expertise can we meet Opportunity Nation’s campaign goals of promoting opportunity, social mobility and the American dream.  Businesses know best the skills needed in employees and are the importance lynchpin in the creation of enterprising pathways that connect, cultivate and sustain previously untapped talent, or disconnected youth, with the skills needed to succeed on the job.

Corporate Voices’ partner in the New Options Project – a multi-year initiative that seeks to connect more than four million young adults with no high school diploma to meaningful career opportunities that match their talents and skills – Year Up is assembling a panel at the upcoming Opportunity Nation Summit being held in New York City November 3-4.  The panel will highlight the community and education partnerships and business best practices that are working to connect the needs of employers with the skills development of the nation’s workforce. The panel entitled, “Opening Pathways to Prosperity: Expanding Options for Job Training and Success” will include the following innovative and inspiring individuals:

  • Rana Foroohar – Assistant Managing Editor for TIME Magazine (Moderator)
  • Gerald Chertavian – Founder and CEO of Year Up
  • John Galante – Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at JPMorgan Chase
  • Mike Jennings – Director of IT, LinkedIN
  • Jane Oates – Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration at U.S. Department of Labor
  • Dorothy Stoneman – Founder and President of YouthBuild USA
  • Stuart Thorne – President and CEO of Southwire
  • Kern Williams – Year Up Boston Alumni, Working at State Street Bank

By highlighting the community and education partnerships and business best practices that are working to connect the needs of employers with the skills development of the nation’s workforce, these business leaders and young adults will share their thoughts on how such programs, if adopted on a larger scale, could bridge the nation’s growing skills gap.

Corporate Voices for Working Families is the leading national business membership organization shaping conversations and collaborations on public and corporate policy issues involving working families.  A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, we create and advance innovative policy solutions that reflect a commonality of interests among the private sector both global and domestic, government and other stakeholders.  We are a unique voice, and we provide leading and best-practice employers a forum to improve the lives of working families while strengthening our nation’s economy and enhancing the vitality of our communities.  For more information, please visit http://www.corporatevoices.org.