WASHINGTON — The United States’ disappointing education system is a major cause of unemployment and decline in American economy, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a speech Wednesday.
“It’s a disgrace that our country has allowed so many children to fall through the cracks,” Donohue said in his 2014 State of Business Address.
More than 27 percent of Americans who did not complete high school are unemployed, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Donohue said that technology plays a large part in the shortage of jobs because it replaces manual labor.
The employment market has become more competitive for all fields and most open positions require higher education. For workers who have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, the unemployment rate is under 5 percent.
Donohue predicts an overall growth rate of around 3 percent for 2014. The Chamber wants to see the American economy “regain its footing,” he said. Adding skilled workers to the labor force, is the key to turning around the economy, the Chamber believes.
“We’re going to be a leader in efforts to improve education and training,” Donohue said, with the goal of releasing a newly charged group of educated young-adults into the future labor market.
Donohue said the Chamber will try to repair Obamacare, prevent lawsuit abuse, protect intellectual property rights and open capital markets. The goal: to create a productive environment in which skilled workers can do their job.
John McKernan, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, said 2014 is “a chance to take stock of the challenges to come and the opportunities to be seized.”
Global trade is a major tool to unlocking new opportunities by creating strong relationships with foreign countries and making a “global voice for American business,” according to Donohue.
The Chamber also encourages exploring for oil from sources other than conventional wells and using natural gas as a source of clean energy to boost the American economy. Two years ago, there was an increase of $284 billion in GDP, $75 billion in tax revenues and 2.1 million jobs due to oil taken from shale and gas-to-liquid processing. These profits can be used to help cover the costs of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Donohue said increasing foreign trade and using alternative energy sources will require a stable environment for trading and transportation. Specifically, “a safe, seamless and modern infrastructure” will speed up transactions, slow pollution and even “save lives.”
The Chamber of Commerce will “influence our leaders [and] implement change where we need it,” said McKernan.
The detailed items on the 2014 agenda for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have a purpose of creating economic growth. Yet even Donohue said economic growth, while
critical, is not a panacea.”
Closing the education gap and creating stable foundations that equip students for upcoming jobs is the Chamber’s solution.
“Where is the outrage? Where is the urgency?” Donohue questioned. “If our nation doesn’t get damn serious about the millions of young people who drop out of school, nothing else we do or try is going to work.”