Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
GreaterGood.com Workforce Event
January 19, 2000

Thank you for joining us here today. I want to thank Katharine Schuitemaker, Paul Goodrich and all the hardworking people at GreaterGood.com for allowing us to visit their company and hear about the good work that they are doing here.

It's absolutely fascinating to see how information technology has revolutionized both the world of retailing and the world of charitable institutions.

You have created a creative synthesis of retailing and charity. This synthesis not only creates jobs and family-wage incomes from e-tailers right here in Washington, but also and simultaneously benefits people worldwide.

I want to thank the Washington Software Alliance for joining us today to help promote solutions that will lessen the skill gap in the Software industry. I have enjoyed working with the Alliance over the past few years and am pleased to be here with Bill Baxter, the President and CEO of BSQUARE and the current chair of the Alliance, Kathleen P. Wilcox, Executive Director of the Washington Software Alliance, and Andrew Frye, an Alliance Board member who is also President and CEO of Lariat Software, Inc.

Ellen O'Brien Saunders, the Executive Director of the State Workforce Training Board is also here with us. Ellen will be working very closely with the Alliance to help resolve skills gap issues.

GreaterGood.com is an example of the fastest growing industry in the state of Washington-software and e-commerce. Last year GreaterGood.com had 17 employees. This year they have 90. Washington's software industry is our state's fastest growing industry and Washington has the fastest growing and highest paying software industry in America.

GreaterGood.com, like many companies in Washington, is facing limits on their sales and income because of an inability to find skilled information technology workers. The Software Alliance completed a study last year reporting that 65,000 skilled jobs will be created over the next three years. The inability to find skilled workers to fill those jobs could cost the industry nearly $13 billion.

The State Workforce Training and Education Training Board is releasing a study today that indicates that this skills shortage is widespread. Our survey of 3,900 employers in Washington indicates that:

An estimated 60,000 Washington employers had difficulty finding qualified job applicants during the past year (64 percent of all Washington employers).

Among firms that had difficulty finding qualified job applicants, 74 percent said it lowered their productivity, 67 percent said it reduced output or sales, and 64 percent said it reduced product or service quality.

The scarcity of skilled workers is impacting all industries, most particularly construction (73 percent) and manufacturing (70 percent) as well as software and electronics (63 percent).

This is a skills gap, not a labor shortage. There are thousands of dislocated workers and low-wage workers who want work but do not currently have the skills to fill those growing jobs and would benefit from the high wages and good jobs produced in these sectors of our economy.

Yesterday, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a study indicating that the gap between the rich and the poor is at an all time high.

It would be tragic if we failed to turn this skills gap into an opportunity to move those at the bottom into the high paying jobs of the future.

Over the past few years I have worked with the Software Alliance to expand high tech and other high-demand education programs in our public schools, community colleges and state universities.

This year I am proposing three items that will further build on that partnership.

The first is $2.4 million for the development and expansion of new high technology education programs at our community colleges and universities.

The second is a $1.2 million Skills Gap Fund to help build partnerships between industries, like software and e-commerce, and our education and training system. Such a partnership would determine the skills workers need three-to-five years from now and ensure that our universities and community colleges develop courses to teach students and workers those very skills.

The third proposal would allow businesses that contract with local community colleges or private schools for on-the-job training of their workers to get a tax credit for 50% of the cost of the training.

People who cannot keep up with the increasingly technical skills required by jobs today will find themselves stuck in dead-end jobs, losing ground year after year. We have to find ways that busy people with families can "learn more and earn more."

Perhaps the most effective way for busy people to get access to a lifetime of learning is to be able to learn on the job. Government should provide tax incentives to employers providing education and training in the workplace.

It is time for government to work in partnership with businesses to build an education system that allows working families to "learn more while they earn more."

I want all of Washington's workers to share equally in the benefits of our economic prosperity. By helping the software industry solve its skills gap, we can help thousands of Washingtonians move into satisfying and prosperous careers. And that would be a good thing for all of us.

Thank you very much.

It's now my pleasure to introduce State Representative Laura Ruderman who will say a few words.
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