Jason Tyszko of the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce Foundation Employers
must step up to solve skills-gap problem A
Civic CaucusFocus on Human CapitalInterview April
Broden (vice chair),Pat Davies, Dan Lortiz (chair), Paul Ostrow, Dana
Schroeder (associate director). By phone: Janis Clay, Paul Gilje
(executive director), Sallie Kemper (associate director), Clarence
Shallbetter, Jason Tyszko, Amy Walstien (Minnesota Chamber of
According to Jason Tyszko of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation,
employers are not going to sit back and wait for government to solve
the skills-gap problem, the number-one issue for business members of
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The skills gap, he says, is impacting
business earnings and companies' ability to grow, with nearly 50
percent of U.S. employers struggling to fill jobs. Employers are
realizing they need to step up and play a more proactive role in
solving the skills-gap problem.
recent report, The Chamber Foundation recommends that employers
develop an education and workforce strategy based on innovations in
business supply-chain management. Such a strategy puts employers in
the role of end-customers of talent supply chains, encourages
employers to proactively organize and manage flexible and responsive
"preferred-provider" networks to deliver education and training, and
encourages employers to align performance-based measures and
incentives to reward good performance among the preferred providers.
Tyszko cites examples of educational institutions learning to be more
responsive to employers, companies becoming more proactive in dealing
with the skills gap and a state program in
taking a supply-chain approach. He calls on employers to send better
market signals of the skills and training they need, so education
systems and economic development systems can better align with those
needs. He notes that employers are already investing $600 billion in
education and training of their workers. And he points out that in
addition to technical skills, employers are looking for soft skills in
their workers, such as the ability to think critically, to problem
solve, to function in a team environment, to communicate effectively
and to become self-learners.
There are major
deficiencies in the performance of the education and workforce
development system in the U.S., Tyszko asserts. He cites the country's
low K-12 rankings compared to other industrialized countries and its
high school graduation rate of only 80 percent, calling that a "leaky
pipeline," where we lose a significant portion of the talent pool
Jason Tyszko is senior director of education and workforce policy at
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a position he has held since
2013. In his role at the foundation, Tyszko advances policies and
programs to preserve America's competitiveness and enhance the career
readiness of youth and adult learners.
Tyszko's prior experience focused on coordinating interagency
education, workforce and economic development initiatives. In 2009, he
served as a policy adviser to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's administration
and as a member of the Executive Committee that directed more than $10
billion in investments to aid in the state's recovery. While in the
Office of the Governor, Tyszko chaired the interagency Job Training
Working Group and developed Illinois Pathways, the public-private
education strategy included in the state's Race to the Top proposal.
addition, Tyszko was deputy chief of staff and senior policy adviser
to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. There
he oversaw the design and launch of the STEM
Learning Exchanges, an innovative network of statewide public-private
partnerships. The network was tasked with coordinating the planning
and investing to support regional STEM education and workforce
programs. He further provided lead staff and policy support to the
Illinois Workforce Investment Board and also managed innovative
Tyszko received his
Master of Arts from the University
and his Bachelor of Arts from DePaul University. He is a certified
teacher in Illinois and resides in Washington, D.C.
General information about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Jason Tyszko started the discussion with some general information
about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has a membership of
three million businesses within its federation of over 2,500 state and
local chambers of commerce. "We have a pretty wide reach and we
represent a pretty diverse set of interests," he said. The membership
includes small and medium-sized businesses, as well as large global
The U.S. Chamber of
Commerce Foundation, where Tyszko works, is a 501(c)(3) subsidiary of
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is part of the Center for Education
and Workforce, one division of the foundation. It focuses on early
education, K-12, postsecondary education and adult learners and is
driving the work the foundation is doing on the skills gap, Tyszko
skills gap is the top issue for members of the U.S. Chamber of
issue is front-and-center for them," Tyszko said. "Members are clear
about their need to be able to access a high-quality workforce that
can contribute toward the ability of their companies to grow and
compete in today's economy."
said a recent survey by Adecco, a job placement firm, found that 92
percent of business executives believe there is a serious gap in
workforce skills and nearly half of their businesses are missing out
on growth opportunities as a result. Over 75 percent of manufacturers
believe there is a moderate-to-severe shortage of workers within their
Nearly 50 percent of U.S.
employers, Tyszko said, are struggling to fill jobs, resulting in
long-term vacancies, while we have "people sitting on the bench." In
the manufacturing sector alone, there are 600,000 unfilled jobs today.
In the total economy, by 2020, over six million jobs will go unfilled.
have a tremendous gap in terms of the jobs that are available and the
ability for people to access those jobs," he said.
The skills gap hurts business earnings and companies' ability to grow.
According to Tyszko, the impact on earnings of an average, midsized
manufacturer due to the skills gap is around 11 percent, or just under
$5 million. He said over 40 percent of companies can't meet their
financial targets or innovate, because they don't have access to the
workforce they need. And 37 percent of employers say they can't start
new major projects or launch strategic initiatives, because they don't
have access to the talent they need to compete and grow.
There are some major deficiencies in the performance of the education
and workforce development system in the U.S.
Tyszko said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD) international rankings show that, compared to other
industrialized countries, the U.S. K-12 system ranks:
26th in math;
17th in reading; and
21st in science.
addition, Tyszko said, the overall U.S. high school graduation rate is
80 percent. "That means right out of the gate, we are losing a
significant portion of our talent pool," he said. "We have a leaky
pipeline, a low-performing pipeline as early on as high school."
the postsecondary level, Tyszko pointed out, 60 percent of students
going to any type of college require remediation. Only 36 percent of
full-time students at four-year research universities graduate on
time, followed by 19 percent at all other four-year programs and only
four percent at two-year institutions. And nearly 54 percent of
four-year degree holders age 25 and under are either unemployed or
reported that a recent
study found that only 11 percent of business leaders say college
graduates are well prepared for the workplace. In contrast, 96 percent
of chief academic officers of colleges and universities report being
somewhat or very confident that they are preparing students to be
successful in the workplace.
The employer community is not going to sit back and wait for
government to come in and solve the skills-gap problem. "We
realize we need to step up and play a more proactive role in
addressing this," Tyszko said. So the Chamber Foundation has been
exploring how employers can expand their leadership role. In 2014, the
foundation published the report
Managing the Talent Pipeline: A New Approach to Closing the Skills Gap,
advocating a new supply-chain approach for employers to take in
dealing with the skills gap.
Lessons can be carried over to a workforce strategy from innovations
in business supply-chain management.
During uncertain times, Tyszko said, companies have had to develop
highly sophisticated supply-chain partnerships and relationships in
order to manage lead times and their competitiveness in the
marketplace and to make sure they can compete and grow.
According to Tyszko, three core principles for employers can be
carried over to an education and workplace strategy:
should play an expanded leadership role as end-customers of talent
supply chains and no longer as beneficiaries of education and
should proactively organize and manage flexible and responsive
preferred-provider education/training networks.
should align performance-based measures and incentives to reward
good performance among the preferred providers.
"This is a demand-driven system that speaks to the need for a
workforce system designed to meet the needs of our time, not the
past," Tyszko said. The Chamber put this vision out at its national
conference in November and is now working on implementation of the
talent supply-chain approach.
College for America, a nonprofit college based in New Hampshire,
is disrupting the business model for how postsecondary education is
delivered and how colleges can be more responsive to
Tyszko said the college has revamped its business model to recruit
employers first as the primary customers. After College for America
recruits an employer, he said, it figures out how to customize a
program for that employer that's competency-based, flexible and
doesn't require someone to enroll in a traditional, semester-based
system. He said the college works to get the desired training for
current or potential employees "better, faster, cheaper."
According to Tyszko, the college then recruits students and often
brings in existing employees to upgrade their skills. The school
agrees to support the students and employees in moving through the
program quickly. "That's an example of how an institution has really
changed its practice," he said.
Lone Star Community College in the Houston area revamped its
programs to better meet the needs of the oil and gas industry.
Tyszko said the college decided to get rid of a lot of programs that
were taking too long for people to get through, weren't necessarily
connecting in a relevant way to the needs of the industry and weren't
getting people skilled in time. In place of these programs, he said,
"Lone Star created new customized training programs to get people
through the door faster, get them credentialed and placed within a
rapidly growing industry in the area. The school was able to move
through a lot of barriers that many other public systems would find
very difficult to move."
The Chamber Foundation encourages employers to work with preferred
training providers that are responsive and flexible, whether they're
traditional providers or not.
Tyszko noted that the
Jane Addams Resource Corporation, a community-based
nonprofit in Chicago, creates a simulated manufacturing training
environment. "They recruit low-income populations to access the
training and then be placed with one of their portfolio of companies,"
he said. "They stand as an alternative to the community college system
in their area. They've gotten good results by orienting around a
supply-chain business strategy and being geared toward meeting the
needs of the portfolio of companies that recruit directly from them."
Employers must lead the way and come better prepared to manage the
talent supply chain.
Tyszko called this a new paradigm and said employers must know what
their demand is. "Employers must come together and focus on the
positions and the capabilities that drive their competitive
advantage," he said. "I suspect you'll find that the focus will be on
a range of occupations, from the top level down to middle-skill
Tyszko said employers need to better identify what their needs are
based on their business model. "They need to find out which positions
need deep-bench strength," he said. He expects that manufacturing,
energy, IT and health care will be prominent sectors attracted to this
The skills gap will continue to grow until employers become more
"We're hoping to take a slice out of it, but this is a long haul,"
Tyszko said. "We don't think the solution is going to be driven by
more public-sector leadership or investment. That's important and
needs to happen, but employers need to step up in a whole new way. Not
in a way that's charitable or philanthropic. They have to do this
because this is what they need to drive their growth."
Alcoa, a leading global manufacturer, is an example of a large company
becoming more proactive in dealing with the skills gap.
Tyszko explained that Alcoa has a corporate social responsibility unit
that makes community investments to do good things and promote the
company. The company realized the skills gap is not going away and
decided to reorganize internally, by moving the corporate
responsibility unit underneath human resources. "That has brought more
intentionality about how those corporate investments are affecting the
company's ability to access talent," he said. "They've created campus
partners and are getting a lot more strategic about where they're
placing their time, their jobs and their investment in capital and
"That's an excellent example of a company that found a way to
reorganize its own practices and to target its resources more
strategically in order to get a better result," Tyszko continued.
The education system and the economic development system should be
able to better align with employers if they send better market
"It's going to take a big leap for educators and economic development
groups to enable employers to play the role of the end-customer and
not to get in their way or pretend to know their needs without really
knowing them," Tyszko said.
Employers are already investing massive amounts of money into training
Tyszko noted that the total annual investment of employers in
education and training is $600 billion, compared with an annual
federal investment of $450 billion. "The employer investment is a
massive amount of resources primarily going to incumbent employees who
are older," he said. "If you were to redirect just a small percentage
of the $600 billion toward working with supply chains and hiring newly
credentialed workers, that could transform the system tomorrow."
don't have to wait around for the public sector to get the tax code,
the incentives or the grants right," he continued. "Employers are in a
unique position to leverage their hiring practices more effectively.
We think we could do that today. We don't need to wait."
The public sector could create a better enabling environment to help
employers change the system more quickly.
Tyszko wonders whether something could be done with income tax
withholdings to encourage employers to invest in training. For
example, perhaps an employer could withhold some state income tax to
recoup some worker training costs, rather than having to go through a
The State of Kansas has a program called
Workforce AID (Aligned with Industry Demand) that takes a
supply-chain approach, rather than using a competitive grant process.
Tyszko explained that the program, which is run by the state
Department of Commerce in partnership with the Kansas Board of
Regents, brings employers in to help craft requests for proposals (RFPs)
for the training and the industry-recognized credentials their
employees need. The program then puts the RFPs out for bid to a very
diverse set of providers. "It almost becomes like a talent-purchasing
bid that goes out," he said. "This is a great example of how incentive
systems can be reorganized to get a different result."
Career and technical education (CTE) is on the front lines of this
debate, but it represents a small drop in the bucket in level of
investment and is typically aimed toward middle-skill jobs.
With supply-chain management, Tyszko said, employers determine their
needs, which may or may not align with the existing CTE
program offerings in the area. Also, he said CTE
programs typically use advisory boards of employers that might meet
twice a year. "It's a very low level of advisement," he said. "With
talent pipeline management, we're talking about employers coming in
not as advisors, but as end-customers in preferred-provider
relationships. We want employers coming in and saying, 'We want to
work with you, but if you're unable to deliver, we'll work with
Tyszko said CTE
is probably able to adapt more quickly to this new model than other
players who have not traditionally had a working relationship with the
employer community. "I'm hoping they can lead the way," he said. "It
remains to be seen, because a lot of these programs are stuck in the
old way of doing things."
In the 1950s, employment was relatively stable and skill requirements
shifted gradually; now the system is more dynamic, with
faster-and-faster skill requirement changes and shorter-and-shorter
Tyszko said in the 1950s, there was a lot of in-house training, along
with apprenticeship-style programs, such as hospitals training their
own nurses. "It was a long-term bet by employers," he said. "They knew
talent was going to stick around."
the 1980s, he said, there was more of an outsourcing strategy, getting
talent on demand. Employers started going to the spot market, thinking
they would find what they needed when they needed it. That strategy
yielded uneven returns for employers and was known for high turnover
rates and improper fit.
today, employers need a new strategy," Tyszko said. "For those
positions that drive your competitive advantage, you need deep-bench
strength. You need preferred providers to fill those needs. This is
not a silver bullet to solve all employment problems, but given the
current environment, you need to have a set of reliable relationships
for those positions that drive your competitive advantage."
The new supply-chain approach to filling workforce needs has not been
well executed in other countries.
Tyszko said other countries are interested in learning about this
approach. "There's tremendous interest globally," he said. "Countries
are trying to revisit their workforce systems, because they're not
In Switzerland, the youth apprenticeship model makes employers chiefly
responsible for organizing the curriculum, the assessments and the
administration of assessments in vocational programs.
It's an example, Tyszko said, of the public sector investing the
authority, the leadership and the resource base into privately
operated employer collaboratives. "There are strengths and weaknesses
with that approach," he said. "But there is no question about the role
employers are playing in directing the course of those programs, as
well as organizing a national youth labor exchange."
Swiss system is much more employer-led than the German system, which
might make the Swiss system easier for the U.S. to emulate.
I don't think anyone has cracked the nut on the supply-chain
approach," Tyszko said. "I don't think anyone is getting ahead of the
U.S. on this. We have a real opportunity to advance a new way of
looking at the education and workforce space and we could become the
global leader in sourcing talent."
Employers need to do things differently or the whole supply-chain
model falls apart.
Tyszko said employers must be the end-customers and hold the suppliers
of workforce training accountable. "This is all about getting the
employer community better organized to manage those relationships well
and to play an expanded leadership role," he said. "It's also about
employers organizing things differently internally."
each company, he said, the human resources department must work
together with finance and accounting and consult with line-managers to
address the issue of talent within the whole company. Then the company
must go out and manage the demand for talent well. "This has to be
done as a team," he said. "We need to better organize employers on the
demand side to get better results on the supply side."
Companies want to diversify their workforce and want to find the
programs that can best recruit underrepresented people and get them
through job training better, cheaper and faster.
Tyszko pointed to the
i.c.stars program in Chicago, which uses an innovative,
project-based-learning approach to train low-income youth for IT jobs,
while they earn an associate degree.
Commerce and economic development groups may be best suited to help
employers link their talent strategy to their business strategy.
need to start empowering those groups to play that role more
effectively," Tyszko said. When companies considering locating in an
area ask how and where they'll find the talent they need, the commerce
and economic development people often just lay out the facts on
various colleges, their programs and their graduates. Instead, the
groups should take the opportunity to work with employers to set up
talent supply chains. "That's a much more proactive and
action-oriented way to help them address their talent needs," he said.
In addition to technical skills, employers are looking for soft
skills, or employability skills: the ability to think critically, to
problem solve, to function in a team environment, to communicate
effectively and to become a self-learner.
Tyszko said those skills can be acquired in a variety of contexts. "I
would not assume they're being addressed within a traditional liberal
arts and science curriculum, or any curriculum, without evidence," he
said. It's an opportunity, though, for history departments or
philosophy departments to demonstrate how they can provide those
skills and add value towards the objective of students to land a job
and start a career. "We shouldn't make this about CTE
vs. liberal arts and sciences; that is a false dichotomy that does
neither side justice," he said.
The U.S. Chamber Foundation is developing a tool kit to help employers
move toward the supply-chain approach to obtaining talent.
Tyszko said the kit will include information on launching new employer
collaboratives, organizing demand within companies, back-mapping where
companies get their talent today, understanding talent flows better,
communicating competency and credential requirements across employers,
developing new employer measures and aligning public and private
"We're going to be
developing strategies on how employers get started and then move to
advanced practice," he said. "We want peers learning from each other.
Let's try some things. Let's get experimental. And we want to shine a
spotlight on areas that are doing things well."
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill
Frenzel, Paul Gilje (executive director), Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie
Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (chair),
Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman