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8 Sep, 2015

U.S. Author Calls for More “Thinkers, Makers and Risk Takers” to Confront Looming Talent Shortage

INDIANAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)– An overwhelming majority of Americans say the federal government should make it a high priority to increase the talent of our nation’s workforce, according to a new Gallup-Lumina Foundation Pulse Poll. The results come as a new book, America Needs Talent, spotlights the gaps in our nation’s talent pool and unveils a bold plan for ushering in a new era of innovation and success.

In America Needs Talent, author Jamie Merisotis makes the case for dramatically expanding talent – the knowledge, skills and competencies individuals need to thrive in the workforce and in life – and says our nation risks missing out on $7 trillion annually if we don’t answer the call for talent.

Topline results from the poll show strong support for increasing talent across America:

  • 89% say cities that commit to increasing talent among their citizens are more likely to have stronger economies, better quality of life and greater prosperity than cities that do not
  • 87% say the federal government should make it a high priority to increase the talent of the U.S. workforce
  • 85% say that redesigning the nation’s higher education system to better meet students’ needs would increase the overall level of talent in the U.S.
  • 78% say if the U.S. fails to develop a more talented workforce, it will fall behind other countries
  • 65% say U.S. policies should focus on better education immigrants already in the U.S., and 44% say U.S. policies should focus on recruiting essential talent to come to the U.S. from other countries

“Today, close to two million jobs remain unfilled because we don’t have employees with the talent to fill them,” said Merisotis, who also serves as president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. “We’ve answered the call for talent before, and we can do it again. If we don’t, we face deficits of prosperity and opportunity, we risk losing our global standing as a leader – both economically and culturally – and we are on track to leaving a less-influential and less-prosperous country to our children and grandchildren.

Jamie Merisotis is president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation, a national foundation dedicated to increasing Americans' college attainment, and author of the book, "America Needs Talent: Attracting, Educating & Deploying the 21st-Century Workforce," published by RosettaBooks. (Graphic: Business Wire)

“The outlook is gloomy, but it need not be. The future is winnable if we take the right steps. The 20th century is known as the great American Century because we developed the talent required for individual and societal success. If we want to realize a Second American Century, we must commit to attracting, educating and deploying a 21st century workforce, and to do that a deliberate set of choices must be made involving government, the private sector, education and everyday Americans.”

In America Needs Talent, Merisotis shares five ideas for ushering in a new era of innovation and success by arming our nation with significantly more thinkers, makers and risk takers:

1. Rethinking and reimagining higher education: Higher education has long been a pathway for preparing workers for economic advancement. But our system has failed to evolve along with society, and today it is out of sync and outdated. We need to redesign our higher education system so that it is centered on today’s students, most notably by measuring students’ progress based on what they actually know, rather than time spent in the classroom.

2. Unleashing private sector innovation: The private sector can play a powerful role in addressing the talent conundrum. There’s incredible potential to tap into a slice of the $212 trillion in assets of the private capital markets to pioneer bold solutions for addressing this challenge. And more companies must take up the cause of building a more talented workforce by investing in training programs to equip employees with the knowledge and skills needed for jobs of the future.

3. Consolidating and repurposing the federal role in talent development: Much more could be achieved with existing resources if federal agencies were better aligned behind the goal of increasing talent. We should create a U.S. Dept. of Talent – not an addition to the existing array of federal bureaucratic institutions – that brings together the atomized functions of three entities – the Education Dept., parts of the Labor Dept., and the talent recruitment functions buried in the Dept. of Homeland Security.

4. Developing a new immigration model built around the type of talent we need: Immigrants were key players in making the 20th century the American Century, and they are key to our future success. Unfortunately, our immigration system is overly bureaucratic and dysfunctional. We must reshape it in two ways by adopting a talent-based immigration system designed to attract the talent employers need and by equipping immigrants already here with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

5.  Reimagining our cities as hubs of talent: Cities will rise or descend based on their pools of talent. The cities that thrive will be those that not only attract talent from the outside in, but also build it from the ground up. Several cities are ahead of the game on this – and it’s not just the typical trend setters. Lesser-known places are emerging as leaders in the “grow your own talent” movement knowing they can create places that entice and embrace newcomers while educating their homegrown workforce.

“These five ideas are powerful and America Needs Talent is a book that should be on the desk of every 2016 Presidential candidate,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO, New America. “Our nation certainly has talent, but not enough and not in the right places to rise to the challenge of reinventing ourselves, again, to meet the challenges of this century.”

“Figuring out how to express the value of investing in higher levels of talent is challenging, but based on the analysis of various studies, I believe that our Gross Talent Product – the combination of market and nonmarket value – is $7 trillion annually,” said Merisotis. “That’s more value than the economies of Brazil, India and the United Kingdom produce each year–combined. Our economic might and the fate of our future rides on getting this right. And I have every faith that we will do exactly that.”

The Lumina/Gallup Pulse Poll was conducted July 6-7, 2015 by landline and cellular telephone. The results are based on interviews with 1,010 U.S. adults aged 18 and older randomly selected from across the country. The margin of sampling error is +/- four percentage points.

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