Panel Discussion: Educating America's Workers for Tomorrow's Jobs

How is the global workforce changing and what do America’s employers need from today’s universities to address and leverage those changes?

Following are from blog if this panel discussion, which was part of SMU's Centennial Academic Symposium on Nobember 11, 2011. The blogs were posted in brief increments as the discussion progressed and have not been edited.

The panel was moderated by Albert W. Niemi Jr., dean of SMU's Edwin L. Cox School of Business; and included William A. Blase Jr., senior executive vice president of Human Resources at AT&T; W. Michael Cox, director of the William J. O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom in SMU's Edwin L. Cox School of Business; Philip D. Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University; and Duy-Loan Le, senior fellow at Texas Instruments, Board of Directors, National Instruments.

 Speaker Comments 
 A. Niemi  Thank you. It's great to have you all on campus today. (Dean Niemi is introducing the panelists, who will take their seats at the panel momentarily.)
 W. Blase Hello. I'm the guy from the corporate side. 

We are constantly in the market for hiring individuals. I'm going to tell you what our challenges are. 
 
AT&T has more than 256,000 employees in 60 countries. About 160,000 of those are union employees. We are the largest union employer in the world. 
 
We have 100 million wireless subscribers. 
 
We are heavy on innovation. We have 40,000 technical jobs, whether IT, engineers, supervisors. 
 
Here's the issue that we've got. Demand for skilled workers is increasing; at the same time, availability of US workers with required skills is dropping.

There is a big shortage of key skilled folks. 
 
AT&T has high employment demand in areas with predicted talent shortages -- the STEM skills. 

We have multiple generations of workers in our workforce. 
 
We as leaders at AT&T have to make sure the new generations coming in have avenues for growth. 
 
We've got $110 million dollars into programs aimed at getting students graduating from high school. 
 
Recruiting. We've got leading edge recruiting. We have a bunch of new hire programs, such as internships. 
 
We're reaching out. We've got about a million people out there who are potential applicants who we stay in contact with via social networking. So when jobs open up we have access to that talent. 
 
Once they're at AT&T, how to get them from potentially leaving. We spend $500 million a year on training. We have close to 18 million hours a year we do on training. We developed a leadership academy designed here at SMU. Fortune magazine just recognized us among the top companies for leadership. We're amping up mentoring. 
 
We hire 30,000 people from the street. We're using our own social networking tool so employees can populate it with their own skills and talents, so that people aren't lost in the system. Hopefully that will cut down on churn. 
 
For our extraordinary leadership:

Character is the large pole in the tent. Yes, you've got to get results, but you've got to do it in an appropriate manner.

We need people who can see around corners and spot trends.

And personal accountability -- people who can fundamentally do their job. 
 
What we need from SMU:

The Gen Y'ers and Millennials are much more demanding. They want the university to get them prepared.

We've got to get kids moving into STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. 
 
Also, teaming skills. It doesn't matter if you're a rocket scientist if you can't work collaboratively. That is very fundamental. So educators should make sure they have kids working in a teaming environment. 
 
Presentation skills. Teach them eye contact.

Critical thinking. How to solve problems. I want the folks who come into the company to anticipate and know when there's an issue coming up. 
 
Project Management Skills. Emotional maturity and good citizens. Show them by example how to behave. 
 
Opportunities to learn businesses. Bring us into the classroom. Get them into internships. It makes a world of difference to them. And a diverse student body. Our customer base is increasingly diverse. Our diverse body has to reflect the diverse body of cultures that our in the country. 
 
Thank you. I'll be ready for questions later.