Shore Up Our Weaknesses First

Shore Up Our Weaknesses First

Recently, I did a column for Huffington Post on fixing the skill deficit among many American workers. An excerpt follows. To read the entire column, click on this link.

One-out-of-five American working men and women are now unemployed or under-employed. And yet, with 3.4 million jobs currently standing open, it’s not as if the land of opportunity has closed up shop. Yes, of course, there’s much to be done to strengthen the economy so those 3.4 million jobs become 6.8 million and more. But, the proximate problem isn’t a lack of employment, it’s a shortfall in the skills and knowledge of American workers.

What’s caused this deficit? The “economic singularity.” Vernor Vinge, the academician and science fiction writer, coined the term “technological singularity” to denote that point in time when machines would become smarter than humans. The economic singularity, therefore, is that moment when the workers in companies based overseas become smarter than the workers in companies based here. And, sadly, we have passed that demarcation point.

America’s companies no longer compete with cheaper labor in the global economy; they compete with smarter labor. On the manufacturing floor and in the office cubicle, America’s foreign based competitors have upped their game. If we expect to continue as the world’s economic leader, therefore, we must do the same.

Accomplishing that effort is clearly within our means. There is a broad range of solutions that could potentially upgrade the capabilities and thus the performance of America’s workforce. All would fail, however, if we don’t first shore up the weaknesses in our developmental infrastructure. It’s as dilapidated as our highways and bridges.