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North Country News

Global Summit Convenes Experts To Discuss Skills Gap

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WAMC/Pat Bradley
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Educators, philanthropists and corporate interests from across the globe were in the Adirondacks this week to seek solutions to a global skills gap.

College for Every Student is an organization dedicated to raising the academic performance of underserved youth so they can go to college.
The organization cites data showing that over the next five years there is expected to be a global shortage of 40 million high-skilled workers with college degrees. Yet over the same period 20 million low-income American young people would be unemployed because they lack access to training or college.

The organization hosted a global summit this week at its Essex, NY headquarters on “The Skills Gap and its Implications for Low Income Students and Colleges” to try to find solutions.
CFES President and CEO Rick Dalton says too many young people do not have the post-secondary education or training needed for good jobs.   “There are some really stark realities and gaps. The number that I’m reading is that in ten years there will be 23 million jobs that we can’t fill in this country alone because we don’t have enough educated skilled workers. At the same time we expect that there will be 20 million, and I’m just looking at young people, who will not have jobs or who will be under-employed. So we need to make a correction so that all of the people without jobs can be filling the jobs that are otherwise going unfilled or we’re taking to other countries.”

Dalton calls the skills gap the intersection of education and business, but says communication gaps have led to opportunity gaps.  “We need to make sure that our young people not just go to college and get through college, have a degree, but they understand the landscape of the new economy. It’s a landscape that has changed, I mean, in the last twelve months. Therefore they need the preparation so that they can take on the challenges and the jobs and the careers that will allow them to move out of poverty. Because implicitly that’s our promise to our young people.”

College for Every Student has partnered with Trinity College Dublin for four years. Its Trinity Access Programs encourages students from low income backgrounds to participate in higher education. Director of Trinity Access Programmes Cliona Hannon notes that nearly a quarter of Europe’s youth are unemployed, rising to 50 percent in Spain and Greece.   “People not systems are at the center of any changes we make. So what we are exploring here is how can young people be supported to make a meaningful contribution to the workforce over a lifetime? What are the changes we need to make in educational institutions, companies and at a policy level to realize meaningful work opportunities for all including the most vulnerable so that they are stakeholders in our society and economy? There are individual, societal and economic impacts of a failure to support today’s young millennials that will reverberate for generations to come.”

The summit’s keynote speaker was former New York Governor George Pataki. He says when he was in office, a priority was to raise the skills set for youth.  “We want young people to believe in the future and believe in America and believe in themselves. And they should. But they need that skill set. They need the ability to have the confidence to go into the workforce and know that they’re going to have an opportunity to live a wonderful life. What CFES is doing for so many thousands of young people, and hopefully over time a million young people,  is giving them that belief in themselves and belief in opportunity that they can then be prepared to take advantage of.”

As a result of last year’s summit, College for Every Student and the Trinity Access Programs are working to get one million low income students around the world to graduate from college by 2025.

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