Like you probably, I slept very little on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning as I anxiously awaited and processed the results of America’s national and state elections. And perhaps like many of you, I was very surprised by the outcome.
I had some close friends and neighbors who saw the election and candidates very differently than I did and we voted for different candidates. Elections are wars fought with ballots, not bullets. But they are wars nonetheless, great battles of ideas. In 2016, a majority of Americans who casts their ballots for President-elect Trump told us something very important – that they wanted a significant change in direction and leadership in our national government.
Why did Trump Win?
There is no ONE reason why Donald Trump rode a wave of change over Hillary Clinton. Each voter chose their candidate based on a complex interaction of personal beliefs, values and concerns. Not all of the beliefs and values of every individual voter are honorable, and I think Trump was a very flawed candidate; but I do believe that he gave voice to a deep resonance of discontent among many, many working class men and women. Many small towns and suburbs, and cities before them, have lost ground over the past several decades as low and medium skilled jobs were outsourced through the forces of globalization. Even jobs that stayed or have been re-shored have been dramatically up-skilled through assistive automation and robotics. These external forces of massive restructuring hollowed out millions of decent paying jobs for people with relatively low skills.
Can Trump deliver the change he promises?
Now, I know that it is a pipe dream to think we are going to see massive re-opening of manufacturing plants and steel production plants, at least not in the way that will produce thousands of low-skilled, middle-class jobs. Political advertisements that promote a messianic vision of the power of a presidential candidate (whether it be Trump or the previous change candidate Barack Obama) are sure to lead to disappointed voters. These political ads vastly overstate a president’s true ability to affect change within a system of checks and balances.
But despite the limitations of power in Washington, DC, there is a crying need for helping youth and young adults access opportunities. Employers tell us there are opportunities for skilled manufacturing technicians with problem-solving and communication skills. As our health care system continues to evolve and a large wave of boomers continues to age, we need skilled health care workers. We need information technology workers, engineers and designers, and individuals with a mix of communications, business and digital literacies that can participate in our evolving business services sectors. We need workers in the human services fields and good educators. We need skilled craftspeople for construction and maintenance of our homes, worksites and infrastructure. All the while, new assistive and automation technologies are going to be infusing and transforming our jobs and work environments, so workers will need to constantly adapt and evolve and grow.
How do we move forward now?
This is hard. Somehow, we need to marry up and better align our efforts at talent development with economic development, cultivating skilled workers and matching them with growing companies that create good jobs.
I believe our vision statement at NC3T matters more than ever. “Every learner with a dream and a plan; every community with a capable, ready workforce.”
Skills and adaptability are the coin of the realm for the now and future economies, and the Pathways System approach is the best education and workforce solution to develop the skills and adaptability our youth and adult workers need. It is a key human talent strategy for our small towns, our urban centers, and our suburbs.
Whether or not we like outcome of Tuesday’s election, the need for answers and solutions to our talent development challenge is real. The angst and anger our fellow citizens are feeling have been communicated at a high volume.
As a leader in your community, I encourage you to take stock and harness the energy of this election. It’s time for practical solutions and forward progress. Take advantage of this critical moment in time to engage your fellow citizens to join you in pursuing the pathways vision.
I don’t want to replay the election itself, and I will insist on a respectful dialogue, but I would like to know from you – How can leaders promoting the Pathways vision take advantage of the climate for change? What are the opportunities and threats? Post a comment to share your perspective.