The Potomac KnowledgeWay Skills for Success program was launched in February 1998.
Three roundtable discussions co-sponsored by the Greater Washington Board of
Trade, were attended by over 30 executives, senior managers and human resource professionals
from a cross-section of companies located throughout the Greater Washington region. The
discussions were intended to expand the dialogue among business leaders on the skills needed,
now and in the future, for employees to succeed in an information products and services-driven
economy. A fourth roundtable made up of recent college graduates under 30
years of age focused on expectations and preparedness for business success and growth.
Market Trends and Driving Forces
- The rapid proliferation of technology is driving up competition for a technically savvy Workforce.
- Increased introduction of new technologies has outstripped the ability of industry and education to keep pace with change. Consequently, the technical literacy of students and workers continues to fall short of industry requirements.
- Information Technology resources are required across all industries creating competition between high tech and non-high tech employers for the same candidates. Resulting wage wars are driving a false employment economy, causing wage compression and morale problems of existing workers and forcing companies to seek solutions outside the U.S.
- Companies of all sizes, across all industries, are struggling to meet their constantly changing Workforce needs, not just for high tech workers but for workers who are proficient in technology and its application to their business.
- The shortage of technically skilled workers continues to increase as the costs associated with attracting, recruiting, retaining and retraining them impact businesses' ability to compete in the New Economy.
Skills for Success
- Successful employees, both technical and non-technical, must effectively combine "hard" technical skills with "soft" skills such as a motivation to learn; a positive attitude; an understanding of the work environment and performance expectations; an ability to communicate and work in a team; an ability to lead and follow when appropriate; and a willingness to change and adapt when necessary.
- There is no "right" skill set; flexibility and the ability to learn become critical for developing the skills related to the job at hand and as the job develops.
- A lack in communications is creating confusion and misunderstanding between employers and employees. Employers seek workers with highly specialized skills, yet want them to be 'well rounded' at the same time. Workers are expected to lead at times and to follow at others; to think out of the box and challenge decisions while taking direction and conforming to company culture; to be loyal even when they perceive a lack of loyalty from their employer.
- Expectations are too high. Want ads discourage well-suited candidates with modest technical backgrounds from applying for technically-oriented jobs, even though many of the jobs could be accomplished with minimal training.
High Impact Regional Initiatives
Suggested focus areas:
- Increase the current pool of qualified applicants through internal (re)training programs, external recruiting and increased business and education partnerships.
- Market the message that technical literacy is for everyone as most jobs require computer skills of varying levels.
- Increase the proliferation of technology in schools from K-12 through higher education and integrate it across curricula to continue to drive the technological expertise of current and future workers.
- Tap into the hidden potential Workforce, including individuals with liberal arts backgrounds who are willing to learn about technology and its applications. Additionally, transitioning federal government and military employees, and "under-employed" or "low skilled" workers could be trained or re-trained to satisfy work requirements.