The quality of our region's labor force is crucial for sustaining economic prosperity. Increasingly, job growth relies on the availability of well-educated, skilled workers for knowledge-based industries.
We can gain a significant advantage by ensuring that businesses and residents here have the skills necessary to compete with other global economic centers. Providing equitable opportunities to gain those critical skills is among our region's most complicated challenges. Disparities in educational attainment, health, and other measures — often based on income levels, race, or ethnicity — put the entire region's economy at risk.
Developing a Skilled Workforce
More than half of our job pool will continue to be middleskill positions that require more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree. Residents without adequate education will struggle to find productive employment, which could undermine our economic future. Workforce development programs are intended to help those workers who need to gain marketable skills, but the system needs improvement to meet the needs of workers and businesses alike. Too often, the system is difficult for workers to navigate and fails to meet employers' needs. To prosper as the global economy rebounds, our region must help workers at all levels of education and skill to succeed. Our workforce programs have great potential that could be tapped, beginning with better coordination among training agencies.
Innovating for a Prosperous Future
Our long-term prosperity also hinges on the ability of our region and its business community to adapt when new circumstances require creative solutions. Though economic innovation must come primarily from the private sector, government has an important supporting role. With our excellent universities and laboratories, the region should do more to connect researchers and entrepreneurs. Strategic investments by the public sector should be targeted to leverage private venture capital, emphasizing specialized "clusters" of strong industries that create good jobs and spur innovation in our region. Even as they compete against one another, companies in these clusters need to collaborate to compete against other regions across the world. We should rally behind such clusters by helping to ensure that our workforce meets these industries' needs.