If you were watching President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, you may have experienced a strange sense of déjà vu.
Addressing Charlotte convention-goers and a national television audience, several of Clinton’s statements echoed recent addresses to the Montgomery County Council by economists and education and job creation experts: America needs new jobs, but these jobs won’t look like the economy of old.
“There are already more than 3 million jobs open and unfilled in America, mostly because the people who apply for them don’t yet have the required skills to do them,” Clinton said. “So even as we get Americans more jobs, we have to prepare more Americans for the new jobs that are actually going to be created.
“The old economy is not coming back. We’ve got to build a new one and educate people to do those jobs.”
In March, a panel of economic and workforce development experts, responding to Fuller's comments, told the council that the dynamic of the nation’s economy is changing. Pushing students to four-year college and beyond may not meet the needs of the county’s future employers, said Harry Holzer, a former chief economist for the Department of Labor and a professor of public policy at Georgetown University.
Encouraging mid-level opportunities and job training would be more successful, Holzer said.
“You have a sense that employers, more in some sectors than others, have difficulty finding skilled workers,” Holzer said. Though it may seem counterintuitive compared to the high unemployment rates countrywide, Holzer said that many employers are looking for “a particular set of skills in a particular niche” that they just can’t find in the current labor market. For Montgomery County, this means jobs in the service industries of health care, information technology and retail.
"We continue to educate people to do work that doesn't match our jobs very well," Fuller said last fall.
In Fuller’s presentation to the council, the economist projected that the county would see a nearly 30 percent growth in professional and business services over the next decade, and a 30 percent growth in education and health services. Almost 20 percent of the county’s job growth will be in retail, financial services, leisure and hospitality services and construction, he said.
“This county [for a long time] disparaged any work that didn’t need a four-year college degree, and now we find ourselves needing a lot of people for work that doesn’t require four-year college degrees,” said Councilmember Marc Elrich (D- At large) of Takoma Park after the March presentation. “We find ourselves in correction mode and I hope we can make the correction quickly.”
Do you agree with Clinton's comments on the economy? What changes should Montgomery County make for the future?