Building a World-Class Workforce Skilled Up for Tomorrow


Today’s companies have a people shortage, exacerbated by a skills shortage. This is probably the most critical problem facing employers today, and we know it’s not going to get better.

The U.S workforce is shrinking due to decades of dropping birth rates and Baby Boomers entering retirement. To staff up, we can hire from untapped talent pools and poach talent from our competitors, but that will never be sufficient to fill the highly skilled jobs of today and tomorrow.

It’s critical, therefore, that those we currently employ, as well as those coming up through the U.S. education system, are prepared for the transforming demands of work in a climate that is dividing businesses even more starkly into winners and losers.

Gone are the days when business competitors were in the same region, or even nation. Now the contest is global. American workers’ skills need to be on par with emerging powerhouse economies across Asia, Europe and the Americas, and they need to stay there.

It’s time for HR to lead the conversation about skilling up the American workforce. The tools are out there to build world-class workplaces that proactively keep employees at the top of their game—if only employers will use them.

A new survey conducted by SHRM, as part of its role in the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, found that just two-thirds of American employers offer educational assistance to some or all of their employees, and only about one-third of employees take advantage of it.

At the same time, there is a wellspring of partnership opportunities that match educational institutions with employers, but only 42 percent of companies take this opportunity. And only 29 percent of employers work with local or federal government agencies to get skills-based training grants to skill up workers.

In SHRM’s latest television commercial, which launched yesterday, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty urged American companies—and HR professionals in particular—to be agents of change. To adjust overly prescriptive hiring requirements. To be willing to accept people without four-year degrees. To pursue public-private partnerships with schools and offer apprenticeship programs.

As an employer, “The biggest thing we have to do is drive a culture of skills,” Rometty said.

I couldn’t agree more. Let start those conversations today.


View SHRM’s new commercial featuring CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., in conversation with IBM’s Ginni Rometty at

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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