Former Governor Pataki Speaks on Skills Gap in Upstate N.Y.
Fifty-five global leaders in education, corporate, government and philanthropy sectors from five nations gathered in Essex, New York earlier this week to discuss the growing skills gap and the action steps needed to reverse the trend. The summit was organized by College For Every Student in conjunction with Ireland's Trinity College Dublin.
Former New York State Governor George Pataki delivered the opening address.
"It used to be that people believed tomorrow will be a better day," said Pataki. "Too often, you don't hear that optimism today. To turn this around, we must link education to opportunity and give every young person the ability to develop a dream and to access that dream."
Today, four million U.S. millennials, many of them from low income backgrounds, are un- or underemployed at a time when three million moderate to high-paying jobs cannot be filled.
Rick Dalton, president and CEO of the Essex-based College For Every Student (CFES), told summit attendees, "It's not enough to get our kids to and through college. They need the skills that employers want."
College For Every Student, in operation for more than two decades, boasts a strong track record of success, having helped 100,000 mostly low-income, underserved students: 99 percent have graduated high school and 95 percent have attended college.
Dr. Donald Outing, chief diversity officer at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Tom Boland, chief executive officer of Ireland's Higher Education Authority, agreed that four sectors of society - governments and non-government entities, academe, corporations and businesses and communities - must work together to close the skills gap.
"Imagine cars that drive themselves...robotic kitchens...manned missions to Mars. These are what our future has in store. And the common thread among related jobs is STEM- Science, Engineering, Technology and Math. We must align the skills that are needed to perform these jobs with our education system," said Kelli Wells, Executive Director of Education and Skills at the GE Foundation.
Dean Garfield, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Information Technology Industry Council, which represents the world's leading technology firms, remarked, "The most significant challenge in our sector is the disconnect between the workforce and the education community."
Gary Gannon, a Dublin, Ireland elected city councilor and a first-generation college graduate told attendees, "You don't have to be ordinary; you can be exceptional."