Georgia Chamber CEO Chris Clark: Winning the War for Talent: Higher Education

Chris Clark

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

No other issue so dominates boardroom and shipping docks as the lack of skilled workers. In the next three years Georgia will need to fill 122,000 healthcare positions, 27,000 manufacturing jobs will be open and 13,000 construction workers will be needed. Looking out to 2030 and you'll see a need for 40% more energy sector workers, 30% more logistics employees and 25% more jobs will be open in hospitality. The list goes on and on.

While many businesses are focused on short and mid-term adjustments to attract and keep talent like raising wages, increasing benefits, offering flexible work schedules, the long-term job market requires the engagement of our K-12 and post-secondary institutions. Listening to human resource managers and educators around Georgia it's clear that we must engage non-traditional students; update our delivery systems; invest in innovation at our Research Institutions; align career pathways; offer last mile grants and better college and career counseling; provide internships and apprenticeships; increase college graduation rates; improve student and faculty entrepreneurial activity; generate more patents; and promote programs that connect job seekers, educators, students, and employers in a future-focused manner.

In this year's state budget, Governor Kemp and the leadership of the General Assembly are fully funding K-12 education, our technical colleges and universities and they're eliminating burdensome fees to make college more affordable. These concrete and aggressive steps will pay long-term dividends.

Critical to building that long-term talent pipeline in Georgia is the Board of Regents and the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia. This pivotal public servant is the most critical link back to the business community and Georgia has a long history of partnership between business and the Board of Regents. That's why it is exciting to learn that former Governor Sonny Perdue will be named the sole finalist for the next System Chancellor. That role is one of the most important in state government and most vital for long-term economic prosperity and mobility.

I was priveleged to spend nearly a decade working directly for and with the former Governor and know his heart and service. I know his love of this state is echoed in every Georgian. As Governor, he had a particular passion and deep understanding of education, workforce and talent development. He has a unique strategic approach to asking tough questions, pushing individuals beyond their comfort level to develop the best solutions. His administration was so successful we were named the Best Managed State in the country. Governor Perdue was consistently future-focused, investing in what's next, in technology, research, development, start-ups and industrial recruitment. Of course, his immense love of the outdoors and natural resources grew from his upbringing in middle Georgia and led to record investments in conservation. As U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, we saw his tireless travel and dedication to those he served. He oversaw investments in rural education, broadband expansion and post-secondary research, along with a skilled handling of international trade disputes and promotion. Simply put, Governor Perdue brings a portfolio of success unrivaled in the history of the position he's being considered for.

Of course, in these divided times we need a true public servant who knows how to work across the aisle, who knows this state like no other and that cares enough to enter the arena again.

Georgia can win the global war for talent with strategic planning and partnerships that lift every Georgian and benefit every business in our state. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce looks forward to working with our new Chancellor as we tackle this issue.