U.S.-China standoff affecting American businesses, Main Street

Sept. 6 (UPI) — As the United States-China standoff plays out in public before the world, we can’t lose sight of the fact that companies here in the United States are fighting a battle to prepare their workforce.

American companies are losing U.S. market share because we are failing at the quality and the speed with which we identify future job losses and then react to closing the skill gap. This slow pace continues to create opportunity for Chinese businesses to replicate business models, steal IP and come to market at lower prices.

How do American businesses combat this? We need better investments in our people, and we need it now. Because, ultimately we need a more productive workforce that will slow down the impact of businesses moving things to China.

A skilled workforce is the No. 1 challenge facing the entire economy and small business owners/entrepreneurs as companies struggle to recruit, onboard and upskill workers. Labor shortages result in higher costs for businesses and force companies to raise wages to better recruit and retain top talent.

All of this means that an effective workforce training program is more important than ever. And, business owners today don’t just want a more prepared and well-equipped workforce — they need it. At a time when 2 in 3 millennials say they will switch jobs within the next 18 months, reskilling has even become a major concern as we need a workforce that can quickly respond to new jobs in this rapidly shifting labor market.

We need more ideas to benefit and motivate companies to reinvest in people. We need more ideas to incentivize companies that choose to make an investment in new technology and employee engagement programs for all employees.

For example, a real problem with the state of today’s workforce is that the people that need training the most, don’t get it. Recent data has shown that 83 cents of every dollar spent on employee training goes to the top 10 percent of a company’s workforce. Meaning most of the workers at risk of displacement by automation, robots and AI are getting no access at a time when their jobs are at risk and they need it most.

And then on top it all, we have this China thing. We need to get strong on China. It is critical to not just the U.S. economy, but also to the health of U.S. entrepreneurship. We need leaders who will back up the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, which is small business and America’s 70 million small business owners. If the threat of countries taking IP (like China) continues, economic growth will be seriously impacted.

Here are some facts: Technology will continue to kill jobs while employees are still not prepared for the jobs they are currently working. States that continue to raise minimum-wage (i.e., Democratic states) without simultaneously creating solutions to reskill workers will be making a big mistake when they pass legislation that further motivates companies to automate and replace jobs/people with machines. Silicon Valley tech firms will continue to invest (and raise huge amounts of money) to fuel artificial intelligence projects, robots and automation that will be aimed at decimating jobs in certain industries (i.e., construction, trucking, retail and food).

I believe in the people who power our workforce. I believe we have powerful workers that both want and need access to better skills training and opportunities to prepare for the future of work. We can no longer accept politicians who fail to act and instead blindly pass prohibitive laws that just make it more expensive and difficult for business owners to invest in their employees.

We must be aggressive in taking advantage of the state of the current economy to invest in their people, invest in technology and invest in growth. We as business owners must take advantage of the current climate and do everything we can to grow our businesses and work with our employees. We cannot allow leaders in Washington, D.C., to stop the progress we have made over the last few years. A strong, growing and successful economy only happens when the over 70 million small business owners and Main Street are doing well in this country.

Sam Caucci is founder and CEO of workforce training platform 1HUDDLE and author of “Not Our Job: How College Has Destroyed a Generation of Workers and How to Fix It.”

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