What is the number one way to fast-track job creation in the United States, where 14 million people are currently unemployed? At the New York Forum, Chrystia Freeland of Thomson Reuters posed this question to a few of the business leaders who President Obama has tasked with brainstorming solutions on his 26-person Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Nearly all the panelists focused on importance of training and investment in education, namely the STEM sectors (science, technology, engineering and math). “To compete, we need a work force trained for the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday,” noted President Obama’s special adviser Valerie Jarrett, who also sat on the panel.
Despite the grim nature of the jobs challenge, optimism was also a common thread throughout the discussion. Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast insisted that a positive outlook is needed to “make America a great place to live and work. We all want that to be the outcome, so it’s critical to have a sense of optimism.” He also emphasized the ripple effects that 100% broadband penetration will have on innovation and job creation.
Representing Wall Street on the panel, UBS Americas Chairman Robert Wolf argued that the U.S.needs to cut the red tape of ineffective regulation and focus on promoting free trade. But Wolf also noted the importance of optimism, as it builds confidence in the markets. Reflecting on his appearance at last year’s New York Forum, he noted “What a difference a year makes. Since I sat here a year ago we have 2 million jobs that have been created. Exports have gone up 10% and technology is booming, agriculture is booming. But when you look at the TV you hear what we are not doing well. I believe we have built a foundation and are on the right path.”
Steve Case, most well-known as the co-founder of AOL, answered unequivocally that celebrating entrepreneurship and fast-tracking immigration reform should be the biggest priorities. “We need to double down on supporting our entrepreneurs, the secret sauce of the economy. They are the most essential part of driving innovation and driving the economy. We need a road map to make them front and center on the agenda.”
Economist Laura Tyson, currently professor at the Hass School of Business of UC Berkeley, was the panel’s strongest advocate for developing U.S. infrastructure, especially through public-private partnerships. “Better ports and better railroads and roads save our companies money. We have look for ways to make the US a great place for the scaling-up of production not only so that American companies to do more insourcing but also getting foreign companies to find the US a great place to do business.”
Jarrett named job creation as the most important thing on the president’s agenda next to keeping American safe. “We have good reason to be optimistic,” keeping the conversation upbeat. “We have great entrepreneurs and the capacity to reinvent ourselves. This is still the best country on earth.”