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President Trump signs an executive order during the White House's job creation pledge event on July 19, 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The White House recently announced an effort to promote high-tech worker retraining for the workplaces of the future.

Why it matters: The U.S. does not have a talent development system for “middle skills” jobs — those that require more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a 4-year college degree — which is no small problem, since only one-third of Americans over age 25 are college graduates.

The details: The administration’s plan takes two important steps toward filling the skills gap:

  1. Fostering industry-led apprenticeships: Staffing more occupations through apprenticeships would alleviate the growing talent shortage and create attractive opportunities for hundreds of thousands of workers annually. The administration’s proposed class of apprenticeships — created for and by industries rather than following existing federal guidelines that do not apply across sectors — could produce workers trained for long-term success.
  2. Closing the information gap: Students and the unemployed need to be able to count on accurate information about job requirements. Too often, they squander federal grants or loans on programs that either aren’t related to available jobs or don’t develop the skills employers actually require. While the administration hasn’t specified an implementation program, its instinct to improve the quality and accessibility of information is right.

Yes, but: The administration’s focus on federal programs and policy presumes a central role for the government in restoring America’s skills base. Yet companies have shown a willingness to invest in training outside of their own workforces and should be allowed to play a leading role.

  • JPMorgan Chase launched a program in 2013 to close the middle skills gap in nine U.S. cities. It has worked with businesses, education and training institutions, and community organizations to create a financial services careers website focused in New York and career-oriented tracks in New Orleans’ charter schools.
  • Walmart has developed industry-wide credentials that would be recognized by employers nationwide, enabling workers to transition between retail companies to more advanced roles.
  • The Center for Energy Workforce Development, a consortium of power utilities and their associations, identified upcoming skills shortages and the competencies required to fill them, ensuring the utility linesmen, technicians and operators of the future have the training and education they need.

What’s next: The formation of this council and vague commitments by employers to “create” 500,000 jobs amount to, at best, a call to action. If the council can formulate concrete next steps — particularly in disseminating current, curated information on the labor market — that help the private sector advance these shared goals, this initiative will be an important step.

Joe Fuller is Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, where he co-leads Managing the Future of Work and hosts the program’s podcast.

Go deeper: “Room to Grow” and “Bridge the Gap” reports at HBS

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

4 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.

6 hours ago - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspended the season tickets of notable alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.