Thursday, March 28, 2013

How do we solve the workforce shortage in our state?

Two years ago, give or take a couple of weeks, we wrote about the fact that in our state there are more job openings than qualified workers to fill those vacancies. The Washington Roundtable addresses that issue in its Great Jobs Within Our Reach report released yesterday. And the Seattle Times ran this editorial calling on the Legislature to fund more seats in high-demand fields.

According to the Roundtable's news release, Washington state could see 160,000 jobs by 2017 and $720 million in new state revenue if we take the necessary steps to fill the growing skills gap.

The report found that 25,000 jobs have been unfilled in our state for three months or more due to a lack of qualified candidates and eighty percent of these jobs are in high demand fields such as health care and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

The report warns that the gap will grow to 50,000 jobs by 2017 unless we fix this problem, in which case, due to the multiplying effect, the scenario in 2017 would be much brighter with an additional 110,000 jobs.

The necessary steps, according to the Roundtable, to fix the problem are just five:

1. Increase computer science, engineering and healthcare capacity at colleges and universities.

2. Foster STEM interest and performance among K-12 students.

3. Improve alignment of technical degree and certificate curricula with employer demands.

4. Promote and enable in-bound migration of skilled workers from other states.

5. Support expansion of international immigration opportunities.

Following some of the Roundtable's recommendations is easier said than done, though, especially when the state is so dramatically strapped for money to satisfy the growing demands in other areas like K-12, health care and human services. How do we get there? Think you have the solution? Try this Seattle Times balancing the budget interactive tool to see how you would do it.

Read this story in Spanish.