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Developing Tomorrow's Leadership Today
By Michael L. Wheeler
"Our actions today will determine whether we realize our hope for a competent and prosperous workforce tomorrow." Workforce 2020, The Hudson Institute
There is a myth in Corporate America. The myth says that we have a labor shortage--a shortage of qualified talent--particularly among minorities. Actually, there is some truth to this: The truth is that there is a shortage; the myth is that there is a shortage. Let me explain....
The United States is facing a tight and competitive labor pool with the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years. Increasingly, U.S.-based corporations--especially high-tech companies--are seeking employees outside the country to meet their demands for talent. In fact, some jobs are going unfilled. But, like an untapped, rich oil reserve, we have yet to fully utilize the talent that exists right here in our own country. The companies that access this reserve of talent and invest in the resources for research and development of these "reserves" will reap great rewards for the sustained competitiveness of their firms. These companies will establish their own pipeline of talent, ensuring the right people in the right place at the right time while creating a competitive advantage.
One way to tap the talent reserve and fill the pipeline is to invest in education and other developmental initiatives. From kindergarten though college and beyond, companies are investing in the future workforce, the leaders of tomorrow. Whether it is providing computers, loaning executives, endowing universities, partnering with not-for-profits, communities and schools, or providing special programs and internships, corporations are demonstrating a commitment to the future of their companies and to the future of the young, diverse talent coming their way. These initiatives have a positive effect for business, society, the economy, and literally change individual lives.
By the way, let's dispel another myth--the myth that says diversity is a "future" event. The workforce of the future is here. What the 21st century guarantees is an increase in that diversity. This is not about one group replacing another--it is about the fact that the world will be racially, ethnically and culturally different. We have the challenge and the opportunity to align businesses, educational systems, governments, and our own understanding with a world reality that diversity is a way of life.
The future of our country and our economy will depend upon the bright minds of our youth and how well we help prepare them for the future. What can they learn from us? What can we learn from them? How can we unleash their potential?
Underrepresentation/Untapped Talent: Think about it: Hispanics represent the fastest growing population in the United States, but they lag behind most other groups in college attendance. The numbers are compounded by the fact that African American and Native Americans are also disproportionately underrepresented at the college level. And what about the other 90 percent of the disabled population? Alan Reich, President of the National Organization on Disability, reminds us: "The disabled cross racial, ethnic and gender groups--and the disabled are among those with the lowest participation rates in the workforce. We have talented people who want to go to college, become productive citizens, and they just need to be given the chance." For every individual not entering college, for every person who is not getting the education and attaining the skill level needed to keep them competitive and our nation competitive, we have an opportunity gap in untapped talent.