THE BLOG

The Middle-Skill Issue

09/25/2013 11:33 am ET | Updated Nov 25, 2013

While wrapping up my service with the Obama advisory group transition team in 2008-2009, I saw a large focus on human capital workforce education innovation. I was witness to a void of end-to-end solutions for employers and users that matched skills by industry and sector. This is where the idea of my education technology company, Viridis, was born: I envisioned a tool available for a globally underserved demographic that needed to develop their skill set in order to advance their career.

Middle-skill positions -- those such as building and road construction supervisors, machinists, clean energy manufacturers and truckers -- will account for 45 percent of new job openings over the next decade, according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But only 25 percent of the 2012 workforce supply had those mid-level skills. Today, more than 75 million Americans are not prepared to perform middle-skill work. There are no avenues for training and for certification that enable growth and job improvement.

With college tuition, job training costs and the amount of vacant middle-skill jobs at an all time high, traditional education credentials are becoming poor indicators of potential success in the workplace. No evidence-based employment decision-making tools currently exist on the market and employers, at best, have a 50% success rate at hiring qualified middle-skill workers.

There is a heightened importance placed upon skilled workers in vital industries such as construction, natural gas, manufacturing, hospitality, food and grocery service, industrial maintenance and healthcare. Still, young adults, particularly in underserved communities and within the Veteran population (of which I am a proud member), are often unable to take advantage of these evolving opportunities because access to work-appropriate training and credentialing has been historically very limited. Last week I spoke on the "Where Are the Jobs" panel at Techonomy Detroit, and explained these are the people - and these are their jobs - that have gone largely ignored by employers world-wide. A problem facing not only our economy in the US, but also in developing nations with an equally poor middle-skill employee-training infrastructure.

In addition to the lack of opportunities available in the middle-skill workforce, we're also experiencing a skills mismatch stemming from the lack of training at this level. For the last 50+ years, positions at the middle-skill level have been awarded to a certain demographic, however there is an entire army of young and diversified workers that possess the competency to be needed to be successful within middle-skill positions. Employers need to start targeting this audience and consider ways to make the middle-skill workforce "sexy" again.

During The Clinton Global Initiative summit, hosted this week in New York, I will announce a commitment to train and match individuals into the middle skills workforce. Drawing largely from underserved, urban, minority and veteran populations, Viridis will offer training program scholarships that adequately prepare course graduates to accept well-paying, upwardly mobile jobs.

We have a bright future with an enormous workforce that is eager to advance themselves; it's time for leaders across the globe to utilize technology innovation, and acknowledge and invest in this demographic that an abundance of earning power.

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