Skills for America’s Future Featured as Innovative Policy Solution at Aspen Ideas Festival

June 30, 2011

Contact: Jeff Harris
The Aspen Institute
202-736-3848 |

During panel on the “skills gap,” participants highlighted steps to train workers, increase economic opportunity 

Aspen, CO, June 30, 2011 –– During a panel discussion at the 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival today, leaders from the public and private sector, including outgoing Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee and business leader Penny Pritzker, gathered to make a case for innovative partnerships to help close the country’s growing skills gap. At the Ideas Festival panel, titled “Do we have the skills to build our future?” panelists reflected on why high-skill jobs remain unfilled during a time of significant unemployment and highlighted efforts – including the Aspen Institute’s Skills for America’s Future initiative – that encourage collaborative solutions to this challenge. 

Moderator Penny Pritzker, Chair of the Skills for America’s Future Advisory Board, posed questions encouraging panelists to explore how we as a nation can address the current paradox of continued high unemployment at the same time employers report they are not able find workers with the right skills and training to fill open jobs. The discussion also featured ideas from the participants about how to ensure our future workers have the skills they need to keep America’s economy competitive in the 21st century. 

“Unless businesses and educational institutions work together, it will be impossible to provide training that’s accessible, affordable and actually meets employers’ needs in our changing economy,” said Pritzker. “It was thought provoking to hear from such innovative leaders on this critical issue, especially since they represent the three sectors – government, education and business – that must come together to ensure America’s economy is growing in the present and competitive in the future.” 

Panelists included Goolsbee, Chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a member of the President’s Cabinet, Cheryl Hyman, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, and Eva Sage-Gavin, the Executive Vice President of Global Human Resources and Corporate Affairs for Gap, Inc.  

Skills for America’s Future, an initiative of the Aspen Institute, is a non-partisan partnership of businesses and community colleges. Its purpose is to address the dual problems of high unemployment and the difficulty many employers face in finding workers with the right skills by connecting employers to community colleges and workforce partners so students can be better equipped with the skills necessary to find and retain jobs in a 21st century economy. Announced in October 2010 by President Obama, the effort had already received commitments from some of the nation’s leading employers including Accenture, Discovery Communications, Gap, Inc., McDonalds, the Manufacturing Institute, Motorola Solutions, Pacific Gas & Electric, UPS, and United Technology Corporation (UTC). 

The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young-leader fellowships around the globe, policy programs, and public conferences and events. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has an international network of partners. 

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