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UD President Dennis Assanis welcomes the distinguished panel of top business, labor, government and nonprofit leaders.
As demographic and
technological changes transform U.S. society and the economy, the need
for quality jobs is increasingly important, University of Delaware
President Dennis Assanis told an audience at a panel discussion hosted
by UDs Biden Institute on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
Quality jobs, offering such advantages as good pay, benefits and
opportunities for advancement, benefit both workers and their
communities, Assanis said. He welcomed a distinguished panel of top
business, labor, government and nonprofit leaders to a full house of
students, faculty, staff, alumni and dignitaries at Mitchell Hall on the
We all want quality jobs, Assanis said. But creating that future
depends on the choices our society makes todaychoices about public
policies, financial incentives, access to education and support for the
research and innovations that will drive our economy forward.
Led by former Vice President Joe Biden, the institutes founding
chair and a 1965 UD alumnus, the discussion was titled, Choosing a
Future of Quality Jobs. The panel was the kick-off event for the Biden
Institutes semester-long policy focus on jobs and the economy, which is
expected to conclude with the release of proposed policy solutions.
Biden began the discussion by acknowledging that economic changes that have displaced many workers have left them discouraged.
The world is changing, Biden said. Some of them look at the future and wonder where they fit in that future.
The answer goes to the importance of having, not just an income, but
also a job that offers dignity and a chance to contribute, he said.
Americas success over the years has been the result of a stable and
expanding middle class, Biden said, and he urged leaders to find ways to
identify strategies for economic growth that emphasize putting work
Everyone, no matter what their station, is entitled to be treated with dignity, he said.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Biden with Elaine L. Chao, U.S. secretary of transportation and former secretary of labor.
In a wide-ranging discussion moderated by Biden, panelists discussed a
variety of challenges and solutions to the question of jobs and the
workforce of the future.
The nature of work is changing, and the jobs are getting more
complicated, said Elaine L. Chao, U.S. secretary of transportation and
former secretary of labor. Everyone can learn [new skills] but how do
we help people do that?
The need, she said, is for programs that train and retrain workers
throughout their careers to meet the needs of employers. Such programs
must be flexible to adapt to technological and other changes and must
prepare workers for jobs that actually exist.
Panelist Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International
that encompasses 27 hotel properties, said his company is dedicated to
hiring locally as much as possible and to training and retraining his
workforce. The effort pays off for the workers who have higher earnings
and the chance to advance, he said, and for the company in reduced
turnover and high employee loyalty.
It takes a force of will from the top, Murren said. I just need
willing people, and I will provide the skills. Companies that say they
cant find qualified workerstheyre not trying hard enough.
Before the panel began, Murren visited an Introduction to
Hospitality class at UD, taught by Sheryl Kline, professor and chair of
the Department of Hospitality Business Management.
In addition to the need for job training and development, workers
also face the challenge of being judged by their formal education rather
than their skill sets, said Byron Auguste, president and co-founder of
Opportunity@Work and a former National Economic Council adviser in the
Obama-Biden administration. Opportunity@Work is a civic enterprise that
aims to rewire the U.S. labor market in ways that enable more Americans
to achieve upward mobility.
I think were wasting an enormous amount of talent, Auguste said.
He encouraged employers to let potential employees show what they are
capable of rather than relying only on formal credentials.
Participants in the Biden Institute panel discussion about quality
jobs for the future are (from left) Byron Auguste, Mary Kay Henry, Joe
Biden, Elaine L. Chao and Jim Murren.
Today, only 7 percent of hiring is entry-level, he said. With so
many new types of jobs being created, its unrealistic to expect
applicants to have many years of experience in a specific job.
Panelist Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees
International Union, agreed that even workers with little formal
education are eager and capable of learning new skills that will make
them more productive at work. The union represents some 2 million
workers in fields such as health care, property services and public
With policy changes such as higher wages and the ability of workers
to have a voice through unions, Henry said, there can be shared
prosperity so that both employees and employers benefit from a
She noted that higher wages enable workers to spend more and, in
turn, help small businesses in a community do well. Business, government
and labor unions should work together on policies to benefit everyone.
When working people are believed in I think we can do big things as a nation, Henry said.
About the Biden Institute
The Biden Institute, part of the College of Arts and Sciences School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA)
at the University of Delaware, is a research and policy center,
focusing on solutions to issues ranging from economic reform and
environmental sustainability to civil rights, criminal justice, womens
rights and more.
Each semester, the institute plans to focus on a specific area of
policy, with a goal of shaping the public conversation in that area and
affecting policymaking at the local, state and federal levels.
To read more of Bidens thoughts about policy changes that can help U.S. workers succeed, visit his blog posted this week on the institutes website.
Article by Ann Manser; photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Evan Krape