America’s skills gap is real, and it’s not going anywhere unless educators, employers and governments work together to close it.

As we approach National Apprenticeship Week — Monday through next Sunday — many well-paying jobs in growing industries remain unfilled for lack of qualified applicants. Technology jobs alone have more than 700,000 unfilled positions.

The skills gap in the United States is growing. In response to this potential crisis, companies are partnering with educators, federal and state governments and other companies to meet the challenge.

The statistics are staring us in the face. Between 2008 and 2016, 99% of jobs created required postsecondary training or education. The good news is that while a high school diploma may no longer be enough to compete in today’s job market, a traditional, and often costly, bachelor’s degree is not necessarily required for new-collar positions.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce defines a “good job” as any job that pays at least $35,000 a year or, to anyone 45 years or older, $45,000 a year.

According to a study the center recently conducted, more than 15 million good jobs in this country require more than a high school education but less than a bachelor’s degree. And federal reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act also bodes well for states like Missouri that haven’t benefited from the tech boom as much as more established technology centers.

But there’s more for us to do.

New-collar training and education also must include 21st century apprenticeships, as well as apprenticeship programs for those wishing to reenter the workforce after time away to raise children or care for other family members.

These programs should provide salaries and benefits so that participants — whether young people, recent college graduates or mid-career workers — can earn while they learn.

In addition, companies need to support those who have served by offering free advanced-technology training, mentorships, certification and job placement assistance to veterans and active military seeking to transition into civilian careers.

Business partnerships with Moberly Area Community College, Cerna and other area companies have strengthened our ability to identify and matriculate qualified candidates into the program, where we develop participants into professionals through proven instruction, valuable mentorships and bold new approaches to job training.

Employers throughout Missouri are encouraged to adopt the Department of Labor-registered apprenticeship model and join those helping close the skills gap in our communities.

Patrick Lynch is the IBM site location manager in Columbia.


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