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Event Recap: Skills Over Status

At Wednesday’s Axios event titled “Skills over Status: The Shift Towards Skills-Based Hiring,” Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) joined business reporter Erica Pandey in a conversation focused on how the education and workforce development systems can be aligned better to equip our workforce with skills needed to be successful in a 21st century economy.

Language plays a powerful role in moving, directing, and facilitating a discussion. To that point, Chairwoman Foxx began the conversation by distinguishing between proper language in the skills-based education discussion and improper language (the t-word). Recalling an anecdote from an old professor, Foxx said, “You train dogs. You educate people.”

The broader point being: In order to move away from the outdated American system that segregates people as either degree-holders or not, education needs to be adaptive and skills-based so that employees can learn as much on the jobsite as they do from inside a school building. Education doesn’t stop when you graduate. It lasts a lifetime. Foxx highlighted her unique skills learned from years in the workforce – typing, construction, and landscaping – which can all lead to successful careers.

A baccalaureate degree has never been required to be successful in this country. To this day, only 30 percent of the country has one. America should be moving towards a skills-based economy where credentials like a baccalaureate take a back seat to an individual’s unique competencies.

Employers are a big part of this shift. The push to educate everyone in America has led to employers setting arbitrary degree-requirements that need to be reversed. As Foxx put it, “For too long, we’ve allowed education to be controlled by educators.”

This means that employers need to take an active role in education too. They should be involved in their community to seek out talent and collaborate with local schools, so students get an education that immediately leads to in-demand jobs and careers.

Every single Member of Congress hears from employers in their district about the need for skilled workers. The issue is nonpartisan. In fact, the Republican proposals like the Promoting Employment and Lifelong Learning (PELL) Act are garnering interest from both sides of the aisle, as scooped by Politico.

Investing in upskilling and reskilling our workforce to meet the needs of a 21st century economy has long been a Republican priority. It’s nice to have Democrats supporting the Republican agenda too. Foxx concluded her conversation on an optimistic note: “I have a lot of hope that we are going to get something done.”

Bottom Line: The future of our economy is skills-based, and Republicans have the policies to get us there.
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