Top HR Executives Meet with U.S. Secretary of Labor and Director of NEC to Discuss Improving Demand-Driven Training Systems in the U.S.

Friday, December 13th, 2013

New Collaboration Seeks Solutions to Meet Employer’s Workforce Needs

Press Contact:
Courtney Haynes
(540) 320-4494

December 13, 2013 – (Washington, DC) – On December 3rd, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor Thomas E. Perez, Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling, Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Jim Shelton, and senior White House policy advisors attended a working session in Washington, DC, with nearly 20 business leaders across industry sectors including retail, energy, manufacturing and healthcare. The participants ranged from the owner of a family-owned 80-person precision machining shop to the top HR executives of multinational companies such as Boeing and Gap Inc.

The meeting was hosted by Hope Street Group, a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunity and prosperity for all Americans in partnership with the HR Policy Association, representing the most senior human resource executives in more than 350 of the largest companies in the United States. The participants were all leaders who share the belief that skill development should be a top national priority, and that positive change will require cross-collaboration and a shared commitment from U.S. businesses, educational institutions and government.

“Expanding opportunities for employers to grow and equipping Americans with the skills to be successful in today’s global economy requires everyone – especially employers, educators, and community leaders – at the table in designing and delivering modern workforce training,” said Secretary Perez. “There’s momentum, but there’s also room to do much more to strengthen our workforce and our economy,” he continued.

The central theme that emerged from the discussion was the need for much closer alignment between the expertise and skills that businesses are seeking in their workforce and the competencies that are currently promoted and taught throughout the educational and training programs in the U.S. “We need a national framework to support American students and workers in building skills of economic value throughout their lifetime. And we need to make sure it is one bold enough to meet the challenges we face,” said Ryan Burke, Director of Jobs & Workforce at Hope Street Group.

Eva Sage-Gavin, Vice-Chair of Skills for America’s Future Advisory Board and Executive Vice President at Gap Inc., said, “We have the opportunity to change the narrative on informing and shaping the job market. We want to continue to find more ways for government, businesses and schools to work together and create more demand-driven programs. When we help workers learn the skills they need in the job market, everyone wins.”

Participants shared some examples of successful training programs, but Peter Zierhut, Vice President of Haas Automation, suggested that, “These examples are not the reality in most parts of the country. Based on our experience, there are schools that do an exemplary job of working closely with industry to determine training needs, but those schools are in the minority. We need to do things differently and at a much larger scale.”

The group agreed that employers could begin to better address workforce needs by establishing and hiring to national, competency-based standards for skills, assessments and credentials within industries and across economic sectors.

The group also recommended devising some much needed changes to U.S. educational policies to better promote, fund, and credit work-centered learning and expand the range of continuous learning options in schools, workplaces and online. These new policies should also enable a wider spectrum of working learners to become more agile in the job market, raise their productivity and earnings, or re-tool their skills for new career opportunities.

“At the Labor Department, we’re focused every day on strengthening and scaling partnerships that better connect employers to the workforce and pave pathways to the middle class for workers of all ages,” added Eric Seleznow, Acting Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Participants plan to continue to work collaboratively to seek solutions to the skills gap and, through the Hope Street Group and HR Policy Association, will begin by working on the group’s policy recommendations to provide more meaningful educational opportunities to meet the needs of employers in the future.

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Hope Street Group is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. Founded by a small group of young entrepreneurs on South Hope Street in Los Angeles, we are committed to helping further innovative and collaborative reform efforts in education, health and jobs and workforce.

HR Policy Association is the lead organization representing chief human resource officers of major employers. The Association consists of more than 350 of the largest corporations doing business in the United States and globally, and these employers are represented in the organization by their most senior human resource executive. Collectively, their companies employ more than ten million employees in the United States, nearly nine percent of the private sector workforce, and 20 million employees worldwide. They have a combined market capitalization of more than $7.5 trillion. These senior corporate officers participate in the Association because of their commitment to improving the direction of human resource policy. Their objective is to use the combined power of the membership to act as a positive influence to better public policy, the HR marketplace, and the human resource profession. For more information visit

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