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Contact: Daneil Mazone, Media Relations, 215-574-7163

London, UK — Addressing the “skills gap” in the U.S. labor market calls for “training programs, and more investment in practical education,” says Patrick T. Harker, president of the Philadelphia Fed. Harker made the comments during a speech in London, which also touched on international trade.

Harker noted that the current labor market shows very little slack and that, “We’ve reached a point where the competition is among employers vying for candidates rather than applicants vying for jobs.” “There are jobs,” he said, “but not enough people with the right training.”

One solution, he said, is apprenticeship programs. The Philadelphia Fed has introduced an apprenticeship guide for private sector organizations in its area, including guidance on how to start their own programs.

Harker also called for a “cultural shift” in the way Americans view practical training. “At some point, vocational education took on a negative connotation, and that’s a problem. Education shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Not everyone wants or needs — or frankly should — take the traditional university route.”

One example of an alternative career path, he said, was through “opportunity occupations,” jobs that pay at or above median wage but don’t require a traditional four-year degree. “If we can be more strategic about the way we train our rising and existing workforce, we can benefit both workers and employers,” Harker said.