21st Century Workforce Commission Report Emphasizes IT

The report, entitled Nation of Opportunity, was short on specifics, but challenged all stakeholders to provide leadership in implementing its "Nine Keys to Success".

The 21st Century Workforce Commission released its report on June 27, 2000 at a Policy Summit Meeting and web-cast in Washington.The report, entitled Nation of Opportunity, was short on specifics, but challenged all stakeholders to provide leadership in implementing its "Nine Keys to Success". The full report and supporting documents are available on the Internet at www.workforce21.org.

What was the report about?

The role of the Commission was to assess the state of America's information technology workforce, and make recommendations about how to build a highly skilled workforce for the future. Information technology (IT) workers were defined to include computer scientists, computer engineers, systems analysts, database administrators, computer support specialists or programmers.The report is important because of the reliance of the modern economy on such workers.By 2006, the U.S. Department of Commerce predicts that nearly half of all U.S. workers will be employed in the production or use of information technology products or services.Vice-chair of the Commission Katherine Clark characterized the report as "…not just for IT companies. It's important to every traditional company that is using information technology to leverage their business."

Another IT report?

Surely the skills gap, digital divide, and new economy have received enough attention? Al Gore's National Summit on 21st Century Skills met in November 1999; the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Technology Policy produced their own report in 1998, America's New Deficit: The shortage of information technology workers. IDC, a leading IT research company, has recently released two reports, including The Future of the IT workforce, 2000 and Beyond.

How important is this issue?According to the Commission,"the current and future health of America's 21st Century Economy depends directly on how broadly and deeply Americans achieve '21st century literacy'."

What is '21st Century Literacy'?

21st Century Literacy is the first and most important of the nine "keys to success" in the report.It is defined as strong academic skills, thinking, reasoning, teamwork skills, and proficiency in using technology.The other keys include leadership through partnerships, career guidance and IT training for individual workers, improvements to the educational system, a flexible immigration policy and local and federal government strategies towards universal access to Internet connectivity and computing infrastructure and hardware.

Challenge to Business: Show Leadership and Create Partnerships

The Commission embraces the model of business-education-government partnerships as the most effective means to build a highly skilled IT workforce. Examples are provided in the Best Practices and Resources handbook, which accompanies the Commission report. Highlights include Cisco Systems, Inc. and the Communications Workers of America joint training program, Sematech's sponsorship of training of microchip fabrication workers, Northern Virginia Regional Partnership (NVRP), a public-private economic development initiative, and the Northwest Center on Emerging Technologies (NWCET) in Seattle.

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