What do the Workforce 2000 reports predict for the future and how could one use this information in making employment plans?
The Hudson Institute's 1987 "Worforce 2000" report and its 1997 sequel, "Workforce 2020," prepared under contract with the U.S. Department of Labor, concluded that the United States was not preparing for the challenges of the economic transformations already underway, mainly the development and dominance of the high-technology industry sector and the labor requirements that transformation imposed. The Institute's reports argued that American universities were not producing the number of highly-skilled technicians and workers that would be needed to ensure U.S. high-technology industries remained productive and internationally competitive.
The "Workforce 2000" reports were controversial among academicians and labor experts, some of whom argued that the Hudson Institute, a philosophically conservative think tank, was unfairly targeting the education system while providing an intellectual and, given the Department of Labor imprimatur, official sanction for the importation of cheaper skilled labor.
Because of the controversy surrounding the reports' conclusions, how one would plan for the future if running a high-technology company is partly dependent upon how one inteprets those conclusions. During this educator's years working for one particular United States senator active on both immigration and high-technology industry issues, I can attest the enormous efforts made by American high-technology industries to convince Congress to authorize an increase in the number of H-1B visas alloted for countries like India known to be producing large quantities of highly-skilled workers. The argument advanced by these companies was, and remains, that the American education system is not preparing sufficient numbers of graduates with the skills necessary for those companies to meet projected demand for their products.
On the other side of that argument are those elected officials and their supporters who argue that American schools are producing the requisite number of graduates, but that the corporations lobbying for the increase in H-1B visas (a special category of visa geared toward temporary employment in the United States of highly-skilled foreign workers) are doing so for the purpose of hiring cheaper foreign labor.
Regardless of what side of the issue one is on, preparing a personnel plan for the future would require considerable effort on the part of human resources departments. Personnel offices must both plan for the protracted and laborious process of preparing visa applications for the anticipated import of foreign skilled workers, and actively recruit at American universities that are producing such workers here in the United States. The latter involves advertising in newspapers for workers with the requisite qualifications, and having corporate representatives at university-sponsored job fairs.
Projections of future growth, and of future personnel requirements, are difficult, especially in the modern era of major economic fluctuations and constantly evolving labor requirements. That, however, is what human resource specialists do for a living. If the "Workforce 2000" reports are accurate, then recruiting skilled workers will be increasingly difficult, and expensive. As companies compete for new college graduates, entry salaries will increase, with the attendant rise in costs for the companies in question -- costs that must be factored into planning for the future.