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Entrepreneurs, training key to closing job gap

Posted: January 12, 2011 10:54 p.m.
Updated: January 13, 2011 4:55 a.m.

Attendees watch a presentation at one of the many seminars and training classes sponsored by the College of the Canyons Economic Development Department and Small Business Development Center to match employers to employees and provide training opportunities.

 

Many new jobs can be created by technology innovations, according to a University of California, San Diego study.

The study also found that igniting job growth for the millions of unemployed workers wasn’t as simple as increasing the number of job offerings available.

There is a gap between the skills sets that employers need and the skills employees have in today’s job market.

The results of the study are published in a new book titled “Closing America’s Job Gap.”

Researchers Mary Walshok, Tapan Munroe and Henry DeVries reviewed two decades of studies and data gathered by academic and private organizations, including the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Our theory was that innovation and supporting small business would be the solution,” said Henry DeVries, assistant dean at U.C. San Diego. “Our research uncovered a different story.”

Retraining America
The main conclusion drawn by the trio of researchers was that for business to grow and job-seekers to land good jobs, ongoing education must be wholeheartedly embraced.

The researchers call on Congress to give workers, employed and unemployed alike, the opportunity to learn new skills to fill those jobs.

“Job-creation opportunities are tremendous if the new U.S. Congress can better align training with America’s areas of successful innovation in such areas as health care-information technology, digital media, precision manufacturing and retrofitting buildings to new environmental standards,” says Walshok, U.C. San Diego’s associate vice chancellor for public programs.

The gaps between unemployment, job openings and job skills are wide, DeVries said. There are more job openings than the population of Iowa.

Nationwide, there are about 3 million jobs left vacant, with businesses unable to fill them. And there are about 2 million Californians out of work.

The disconnect between the jobs available and workers skilled to fill them is growing, he said.

Workers’ existing skill sets don’t translate jobs they’re applying for. And the old jobs their skills related to aren’t coming back, DeVries said.

Jobs have been shrinking in the construction, finance and retail sectors, but employees from those industries lack the skills for the sectors that are growing: health care, data mining and business accounting.

Many people think once they secure a certain skill or college degree, they’re done with education. But innovation is creating new jobs, and the work force needs to be trained, DeVries said.

Job-seekers need to invest in learning new skills.

“This is not your grandfather’s college-degree economy,” said DeVries.

The United States is behind the curve in training employees, according to Dr. Dena Maloney, College of the Canyons’ vice president of economic development.

Other countries are doing more than this country in terms of investing in employee development, she said.

“There are two parts of the equation to have jobs,” Maloney said. “You need to have jobs, and you need to have qualified people for those jobs in order for the economy to rebound.”

Startup companies key
To their surprise, researchers found that relying simply on small businesses to create new job growth was not a key factor.

In fact, innovative startup companies are driving growth.

It’s not just the size of a company, DeVries said, but the age of the startup company.

He said the Kauffman Foundation found that firms younger than 5 years old accounted for nearly 100 percent of the net job growth between 1980 and 2005.

The Kauffman Foundation is a nonprofit foundation working nationwide to promote job creation, innovation and the economy through entrepreneurship.

The government, employers and job-seekers need to solve the job growth and job opportunities gap problem together as their future is intertwined DeVries said. There needs to be a partnership between the startup community, venture-
capital firms and the educational community.

College of the Canyons
College of the Canyon’s Fast Track Institute provides customized training for local employers that can’t find workers with the right skill set in the local work force.

Maloney and Pete Bellas, dean of the economic development, designed the program to meet the growing needs of local employers.

“We look at how we can fill those vacancies and be the providers,” said Bellas.

Maloney said that people are going to change jobs and careers much more frequently than a generation ago.

“The entire economy is in such a dynamic and fluid situation,” Maloney said. “Going to school, getting a degree and a job that will last forever just isn’t reality today.”

Study conclusion
The U.C. San Diego team of researchers concluded by identifying ways in which the federal government can join the business and educational communities to create the kind of job growth that is needed for the economy to fully recover.

The team urges the government to encourage startup businesses, provide tax incentives, teach and upgrade employee skills through training programs, target adults as well as undergraduate students in skills preparation, invest in skilled trades that are experiencing labor shortages and support regional-business clusters that can contribute to work-force development and job creation.

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