Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Governor's Technology Workforce Summit
September 29, 2000
Thank you Mayor Ebersole for your kind introduction. Brian and I have worked together on many education issues over the years and I want to thank him for his consistent support for workforce training in Washington.
This is exciting. We're on the brink of breakthroughs in education. We're looking at one of the most explosive periods of change and knowledge in our history, and we're right in the middle of it. I am thrilled to be here in Tacoma today.
The digital economy is sparking a renaissance here. America's Number One Wired City is now becoming a magnet for digital entrepreneurs. Tacoma has an outstanding community and technical college system. Today, we're going to dive into ideas that could link this system with the University of Washington Tacoma to create a unique education center in the high tech economy. And we couldn't do it without the AEA, The Washington Technology Alliance, and the Washington Software Alliance. Let's give them all a big round of applause.
We're going to talk about the future today. I'm proud to have students with us from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, applied electronics students from Bates Technical College, and computer science students from the University of Washington Tacoma.
Many of you will soon be working in occupations that we haven't even dreamed of yet. You will be designing and running products that we have never even heard of. Our job today is to fulfill our end of the bargain -- To make sure that you students can continue to get access to the education you need to share in the prosperity of Washington's high tech economy.
We need to create a real partnership in this state between government, educators and industry -- A partnership that can provide our high tech industries with skilled workers who meet the standards of their industry. We fill the jobs; we also fill the lives of every person in Washington with hope and promise so that everybody shares in the wealth.
Today, I want to announce my commitment that I will be investing $500,000 of Governor's Workforce Investment Act Discretionary Funds to expand the opportunities for low income, dislocated and other adults to go back to school in high tech fields. The Pierce, King and Snohomish County Workforce Development Councils have agreed to match this amount enabling us to provide opportunities to 350 people in the state this winter.
I will also soon be starting up three pilot projects at Edmonds Community College using welfare savings to certify low-income individuals A-Plus and Net-Plus.
The high technology industry is our state's largest, fastest growing and highest paying industry. In the past five years, household median income in this state has jumped 20 percent and much of that growth has been driven by the high tech industry. Forty percent of the total wage growth in the past five years is wages earned directly in high tech companies.
But a skills shortage could threaten it all. . In 1998, the Washington Software Alliance issued a report that found the lack of skilled workers a huge obstacle to the growth of the industry. Since that time, I've focused on expanding the capacity and refining the quality of our educational institutions to meet this demand.
In this room today, I believe we have the Presidents of virtually every community and technical college in our state. You have retooled to meet the industry's needs by creating opportunities for all Washington citizens. And I thank you for that. Just since the Software Alliance report came out, we've increased the number of high tech graduates and certificates from community colleges and the tech schools by a third.
We are also fortunate to have the new WSU President Lane Rawlins and the provosts of the University of Washington, Central Washington and Western Washington Universities at the table with us. In the past three years, our four-year universities have increased the number of high tech graduates by nearly 40 percent.
But we simply must do more. The scale of the shortage of skilled workers is just too big. And without action, our state's largest and most dynamic industry could lose market share to other regions. And perhaps most importantly, if we do not act, we will lose a tremendous opportunity. An opportunity to provide the education and training to thousands of young people and working adults that would enable them to earn lifelong, family wage careers in the Knowledge Economy.
Last year, more than 3,000 of those jobs were filled by citizens of other countries holding visas. And a similar number of jobs were filled by people from out of state. And yet twice that number of jobs went unfilled altogether. At the same time we have tens of thousands of Washington state workers clamoring for these new high-tech jobs.
We must increase the capacity of our universities to graduate more Washington residents with bachelors and graduate degrees in computer and engineering fields. We also must continue to expand community college technology programs as well as provoke the interest and increase the abilities of high school students in science, math and communications. And we need to do that in the K-12 system as well.
And we need to make sure that all of these programs link together to enable every working adult to learn their way up a lifelong career ladder.
So here is what I want us to accomplish today. I want to hear from industry about the specific problems you face in finding the skilled workers you need. What kind of jobs are going vacant? And what skills are needed to fill them? How is this impacting your company and industry? What solutions do you believe would be most useful in closing the skills gap? From educators I want to hear what has worked and what hasn't worked and what you're doing and what solutions can help you to make progress in the future.
I want us all today to come up with 10 priorities for closing the skills gap. After the Summit we can work together to focus this into a package for the next legislative session. Working together, we can close the skills gap and do what is right for our workers, our employers and our economy.
I know we can and will create a financing and training package to close the skills gap. And working together, we can create a workforce comfortable with change and flexible enough to keep up with the huge technological changes that will never stop.
Thank you all very much.
- Governor's Technology Workforce Summit