I consider myself one of the luckiest guys around. Today I attended the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth. There were a host of attendees who spoke to the business side of this challenge, but I'd like to shed light on the needs of the workforce side, particularly the ranks of the chronically unemployed or underemployed who are historically left behind during economic recoveries. This is an untapped resource that is vital to our long-term economic growth, reducing the number of people relying on public support and increasing the number contributing to tax revenues.
Clearly, the US and, in fact, the world finds itself in dire straits economically. Pundits tell us that the economy is on the mend. But for the communities that I serve, the economy has gone past "recession" all the way to "depression." The economic stimulus package has certainly helped and will continue to do so, but government can't remedy all our ills alone.
The Obama administration came to office in the most challenging time for the US in the last 80 years. Two wars, a worldwide financial debacle, a re-defining of most employment industries and the like have come to define the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Some critics say that this administration is attempting to do too much. What does that mean? It's not like the administration has other choices. It's either do something or do nothing. With the unemployment rate in double figures, the administration is doing something - bringing together representatives of society's different sectors to facilitate discussion, glean ideas, and ultimately to develop a strategy aimed at getting folks back to work in a meaningful way.
These times present opportunity. Now is the time to invest in our human capital in preparation for the inevitable "uptick' in industry. Now is the time to prepare folks from all backgrounds for "emerging" industries. These industries run the gamut from career pathways in emerging industries in IT and Green Jobs, to traditional jobs always in demand like plumbers, electricians, carpenters, truck drivers, and auto mechanics.
Workforce training entities need government support to build bridges with employers and industry groups in order to connect those trained to job opportunities. This includes helping employers understand the value of these untapped resources that are coming from at-risk communities. Convening forums like today's that include leading CEO's, small business owners, labor leaders and non-profits on an ongoing basis and at a local level is an excellent way toward ensuring that the coming recovery will serve all parts of the community.
I know personally why this is so important, because a long time ago, I was one of those at-risk individuals. For 25 years I have been privileged to help these people through my work at STRIVE and am humbled to represent them in this important forum.
Rob Carmona is Founding Executive Director and President of STRIVE, an international workforce development organization http://www.striveinternational.org