Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


November 05, 2018


Our economy is rapidly being reshaped by technology and other forces that are creating opportunity as well as disruption – and with it, insecurity for many businesses and workers.

Much of this insecurity can be attributed to two gaps that are preventing our nation from leveraging its talent and people from realizing their potential. The first is a skills gap– too many people lack the skills or credentials necessary to compete for 21st century jobs. The second is a people gap – too many businesses can’t find the workers they need, when and where they need them. Closing both gaps is imperative to our competitiveness.

Businesses are already leading this national imperative. We have the ideas, influence, and incentives to drive change and create solutions.

To close the skills gap, we’re working with all the stakeholders to address shortcomings in education. We’re highlighting the need for high-quality childcare and early education and advocating for rigorous standards and accountability in our K-12 schools to better prepare students for college or a career.

We’re stressing the importance of smart choices in post-secondary education or training so that people can get a return on their investment and earn credentials of value in the market. It’s crucial that people look at learning as a lifelong endeavor – they must be entrepreneurial to stay marketable in the modern economy. We’re also advancing business-led solutions, like Talent Pipeline Management™, to train workers for existing jobs.

But even as we make progress in preparing workers for 21st century jobs, we still face a growing people gap.

To help close this gap, we need to get as many people as possible off the sidelines. We must help veterans and military spouses transition to the civilian workforce. We need to make it easier and provide incentives for people to work well past age 65. And we need to tackle big social challenges, including addiction, mass incarceration, and high youth unemployment.

Closing the people gap also requires us to fix our broken immigration system. Immigrants have long been a vital part of our economy, and they can help fill gaps in our workforce. We need an effective immigration system that will respect the rule of law, respond to the needs of our economy, and reflect our nation’s values.

The collective talent of our nation is what makes this country exceptional, and it’s an advantage we must never cede. Yet if we are going to keep that advantage and keep the promise of opportunity to future generations of Americans, all the stakeholders must work together to solve the two-gap challenge.

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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