National Press Club

Business Group Focuses on Worker Training Post-Stimulus

February 13, 2009 | By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Like most corporate advocacy groups, the Business Roundtable backs the massive economic stimulus package that is likely to land on President Obama‘s desk in the next few days.

But the association of chief executives is urging Congress and the administration to ensure that the U.S. labor market is ready for the millions of jobs that supporters say the plan will create.

“Most of the recent discussion has centered on the size and shape of the stimulus projects,” said Harold “Terry” McGraw III, chairman, president and CEO of the McGraw-Hill Companies, and chairman of the Roundtable, at a Club Newsmaker on Feb. 11. “But even the best package risks failing, if America doesn’t have skilled workers to fill the new jobs.”

McGraw announced that the Roundtable will soon launch the Springboard Project. The commission will bring together leaders from education, business, government, non-profit foundations and labor to develop recommendations for preparing workers for “21st century jobs--those created by the stimulus package and those that come after,” McGraw said.

He emphasized that economic growth historically has depended on a strong U.S. talent pool. “It was all built on the foundation and platform of education,” McGraw said.

The Roundtable is comprised of CEOs of 160 of the nation’s largest companies. Collectively they represent more than $5 trillion in annual revenue and employ nearly 10 million people.

Workforce training is one of several Roundtable policy priorities that McGraw outlined. Others include cutting taxes, building infrastructure, reviving the housing market and stimulating business investment.

McGraw said that the stimulus legislation is a good start because it addresses what he called an unprecedented financial and economic crisis.

“We are in uncharted waters,” McGraw said. “These are new and uncertain times, and no one can completely be certain about the outcome of actions being taken or what may happen next. But as President Obama said this week, the time for partisan politics has passed. We need to tone down the rhetoric and act.”

The $780 billion stimulus includes several initiatives that the Roundtable backs, such as modernizing the nation’s electrical grid, encouraging renewal energy production and funding a national health information technology system to support computerized medical records.