ICW's July 2012 Newsletter
A monthly update from ICW on education and workforce initiatives and policies.
In June, I began a one-year term as chairman of the U.S. Chamber, and I am honored to serve the organization during its 100th anniversary. While the phrase is often used, we are indeed living in "interesting times." As we watch the U.S. economy struggle to regain traction and we debate ways to jump-start growth in an increasingly global marketplace, insufficient attention is being given to a key contributor to these economic headwinds: the widening gap between the skill sets of today's students and the expanding skills required by American businesses and industries.
Earlier this year, President Obama issued a challenge to institutions of higher education to do what they can to make tuition more affordable to students. Many in the higher education community dismissed the call to action, saying that the ongoing fiscal crises facing most states have already forced them to cut their budgets to the bone. This, they say, forces them to pass more costs on to the students. A report issued in July by Bain & Company (yes … that Bain) shows otherwise, in great detail.
Earlier this month, Margaret Spellings, president of the U.S. Chamber’s Forum for Policy Innovation joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the National Governors Association annual meeting to discuss the prospects for reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). There was much that the current and former secretary agreed upon – first and foremost, reauthorization is unlikely this year and if it is to happen next year, it will require the active participation of the governors. Both discussed the reality of where the debate currently lives in k-12 education—in state houses and school boards across the country. The common refrain in Washington D.C. today – flexibility and local control – is here to stay and the notion of a more muscular role for the federal government in education policy has faded.
The crowd is gathered and the boxing ring is set. Warming up in one corner is former U.S. Secretary of Education and the chief architect of the landmark legislation No Child Left Behind, Margaret Spellings. In the other corner swings former Governor of Tennessee, U.S. Secretary of Education and current Senator Lamar Alexander. Refereeing this Republican education match of the decade, and making sense of all the punches is Dr. Chester Finn, President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
ICW's Cecilia Retelle recently participated in the Marshall Memorial Fellowship (MMF) program which was created by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in 1982. The fellowship is designed to introduce a new generation of American leaders to Europe’s political, business, and cultural environment, through experiential learning. Participating fellows visit five cities during a 24-day trip and meet with a range of policymakers and corporate decision makers. Cecilia discusses two successful education and workforce development programs in Germany and Montenegro.
Perhaps now more than ever, state officials are concerned about an aging workforce and the inability to find skilled workers, while dealing with high unemployment numbers. Alabama has responded to its skills gap crisis with a program called the Career Coach Initiative, which is designed to increase awareness in youth about career opportunities. The Career Coach Initiative has achieved enviable results. In the first nine months of the program alone, career coaches were able to connect with thousands of students.