Giving workers skills to succeed

Moderated by Rick Badie

Recently, President Barack Obama signed legislation that passed the House and Senate by wide margins — the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The law, which garnered bipartisan support, ensures workers have access to job training and skills to meet the 21st century job market. Today, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden write that Georgia and other states should tailor jobs programs to close the skills gap. Two other essays deal with the importance of grooming young talent and public-private partnerships.

Restore opportunity for all

By Barack Obama, Joe Biden

Almost six years after the worst financial crisis in generations, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. Manufacturers are hiring again; there’s more work available now than at any time since 2007. For the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that the No. 1 place to invest isn’t China. It’s the United States.

But opportunity for all means even as we’re creating more jobs, we have to make sure every American has the skills to fill them.

Not every job that’s a good job needs a four-year degree, but the ones that don’t need a college degree generally need some sort of specialized training. Recently, we took two big steps to make sure every American has the chance to learn skills that lead directly to jobs in growing industries like manufacturing, information technology, energy and health care.In 2011, we asked Congress to reauthorize one of the most important job-training laws in our country, and its members worked through their differences and got the bill to the president’s desk. The law will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs and build on what we know works: more partnerships with employers, more tools to measure performance, and more flexibilities for states and cities to best run their workforce programs.

We also released a review of America’s training programs to ensure they have one mission: Train Americans with skills employers actually need, then match them to jobs that need to be filled. In Georgia, for example, the Atlanta BeltLine Healthcare Partnership is giving local workers a chance to learn skills that prepare them for a career in the health care industry

Both of these steps will connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs. They are a win for America’s workers, for the middle class, and for all those fighting to earn their way into the middle class.

We know that America is full of men and women who work hard and live up to their responsibilities. We’ve met them across the country: a working mother in Minnesota who retrained at a community college to go from waiting tables to a career as an accountant, and women in Detroit who knew little about computer programming four months ago, but who will soon become coders.

All they — and millions of other Americans — want is to see their hard work pay off, their responsibility rewarded. They want to work. They want to provide for themselves and their families. We’re fighting every day to give them that chance.

It’s what we need to do more of, together, as we restore opportunity for all.

Barack Obama is president of the United States; Joe Biden is vice president.

By Zach Sprouse

The gap between the diploma and the first paycheck represents a problem for our future: fewer individuals engaged in their local markets.

This barrier thwarts economic progress for us all. It represents fewer taxpayers and active participants in any market. It also keeps the kids from moving out of Mom and Dad’s basement.

Many college and university programs in our region are doing their part to narrow the gap by emphasizing job-ready, transferable skills without abandoning the fundamental curriculum.Consider: South University’s anesthesiology assistant program boasts nearly perfect placement. The feedback from skilled clinicians who oversee these graduates often recognize their smooth transition from the classroom to operating rooms. And after successfully launching a Pharmacy School, Presbyterian College has discussed plans to implement a physicians assistant school in the future.

Nevertheless, the inaugural 2014 Gallup-Purdue index found only 6 percent of graduates strongly agree they had a meaningful internship or job, worked on a long-term project and were actively involved in extracurricular activities.

Without widespread support of businesses across multiple industries to pick up the banner of developing the next generation of leaders, our economic recovery will likely continue to reflect volatility.

Upward trajectory isn’t inevitable for everyone, but with the right selection and reasonable care, the addition of a young associate or paid intern is low risk, high reward. With a renewed focus on hiring and cultivating young talent, businesses can play an even greater role building a solid foundation for sustainable economic activity.

For example, Manhattan Associates, a supplier of supply chain management software, offers a well-structured co-op program that allows students to gain experience testing and implementing software solutions. AirWatch, a mobile security and enterprise mobility management provider, actively recruits and retains young talent.

Moreover, this kind of mutually beneficial investment also happens on a smaller level. A Marietta law firm recently invested in a rising second-year law student from the University of Georgia, while a communications consultancy hired a recent Emory University graduate who has developed and cultivated relationships with clients around the country.

Can we bolster our incentives to encourage investments in future generations and long-term success?

Native Georgian and Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson stated that he, like a turtle on a fence post, didn’t rise to his post at the Supreme Court of Georgia without help from mentors along the way.

To that end, a long-time Georgia Pacific employee was hired immediately following college graduation and has steadily added value to colleagues and associates ever since. And a veteran Savannah River pilot, who has guided some of the largest container ships into our region’s vital port, was brought on board in his early 20s, learning many skills on the job. These two employees have been sound investments for the enterprise, the individual and the marketplace.

Georgia has been lauded by many as the best state to do business. Let’s keep investing in opportunity and cultivating talent. Businesses can take the lead.

Zach Sprouse is a corporate communications consultant with Atlanta-based Ledlie Group.

Private-public impacts lives

By Dale Royal

A conundrum plaguing the public sector — and specifically governments — is how to do more with less. Dwindling budgets make it difficult to meet even a community’s basic needs.

The path of least resistance, particularly on the government side, has been to increase revenue by raising taxes. There is, however, another approach.

Progressive governments have opted to establish economic development entities, like Invest Atlanta, that work with public-private partnerships to spur growth that can ultimately lead to a larger tax base.President Barack Obama’s recent launch of the Build America initiative represents this approach of using tax dollars as a catalyst for economic development. This program, specifically geared to infrastructure needs, will address funding shortfalls surrounding deteriorating roads, bridges, railways and power and sewer systems across the country.

The valuable public-private partnerships that result will certainly be beneficial for communities. We know this because we have done it. And it works. An example is Invest Atlanta’s use of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s New Market Tax Credits program. Since 2007, Atlanta has been awarded $148 million through this program. Of that amount, $38 million supports projects that create jobs or provide services to low-income communities.

We have seen projects like the Center for Civil and Human Rights open its doors as a result of $13 million in gap financing from Invest Atlanta. Other key projects include the Georgia Aquarium’s latest expansion with a $25 million tax credit, acquisition of land for the Aerotropolis development with a $30 million tax credit, and renovation of the former downtown Macy’s building into an events center and business incubator with a $12 million tax credit.

These projects amount to $80 million in tax credits that we expect to support development and job creation. To date, the New Market Tax Credits program has created nearly 600 jobs and retained more than 400 full-time-equivalent positions.

In addition to these more traditional public-private partnerships, Invest Atlanta has established two new programs for small businesses.

The Atlanta Catalyst Fund is a revolving loan program for new or existing businesses that offers up to $100,000 for the purchase of equipment or machinery, working capital support, training, property acquisition or leasehold improvements. A complementary program, the Atlanta Seed Equity Initiative, provides local entrepreneurs with equity investments to help new businesses mature.

Public-private partnerships positively impact residents of this great city. With our recent New Market Tax Credits award, we plan to spend $68 million over the next two years. Some of the funds are committed, but applications are still being accepted for new projects and businesses.

These funds will allow us to maximize returns to the Atlanta economy and continue the momentum around the unprecedented development that is happening here. Dream with us. Bring your hopes, your ideas and your vision.

Dale Royal is senior project manager/redevelopment for Invest Atlanta.



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