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Economy , Editor's Note – October 19, 2020

Editor’s Note: My Cynicism Has Been Silenced

What was your reaction when you heard another report had been released on how to create a better future for Hawai‘i and its people? Was it the same as my initial reaction: a sigh and an eye roll?

But as we all should know, immediate and unthinking first reactions are often wrong. So, let me give you my reaction after reading our cover story on the “Talent Roadmap” by Staff Writer Noelle Fujii-Oride, reading the report itself and thinking for a while.

My thoughtful reaction is that the roadmap’s strategy is not a holy grail that will transform Hawai‘i into a paradise for everyone in a few years. That, of course, is an impossible dream and the roadmap does not promise anything like that.

Instead the roadmap offers a smartly targeted strategy that focuses on workforce development. That’s a wonky term that translates into giving people of all ages the skills they need to get and keep well-paying jobs – in-demand jobs in three specific areas that will boost the effectiveness and efficiency of Hawai‘i’s companies, nonprofits and government.

That seems like a modest vision that, even if it succeeds, will have a modest impact. So let me put it in human terms: The roadmap suggests a way to change the careers of tens of thousands of people. They will no longer be stuck in the lowest paying jobs, doing work that might not be fulfilling; instead, they’ll receive training to take a step or two up to jobs that require more or different skills.

If you add tens of thousands of people to the thinking, creative and innovating workforce of Hawai‘i, the economic multiplier effect will be powerful and exponential. That part is undeniable.

 

Living Wages

The new skills they learn could be in totally different fields from what they’re doing now – or what they did before the pandemic furloughed them. And those new skills will lead to better wages, which will lift more Hawai‘i families out of living paycheck to paycheck.

The skills they’ll learn are in demand in Hawai‘i now and will be even more so in the future, but jobs requiring those skills are often filled by people from the Mainland or left vacant because no one is available.

Noelle’s story will give you a more complete picture of the Talent Roadmap’s strategy and the thinking of the people who created it. I recommend reading the article.

Afterward, you can read the report itself: The full title is “From Today to Tomorrow: A Talent Roadmap to Support Economic Recovery in Hawai‘i”. It’s possible you will see a role for yourself in the roadmap’s strategy.

 

Reasons for Optimism

Will the roadmap achieve its goals? I have good reasons for optimism and an idea of the main challenge.

Change even by a single individual is difficult. The degree of difficulty increases when you talk about changing an organization, and becomes arduous – almost impossible – when that change involves how organizations operate on their own and how they cooperate with each other. That’s the challenge that the roadmap presents to many government institutions, companies and nonprofits in Hawai‘i.

My optimism at least partly comes from the genesis of the roadmap. Many local nonprofits played roles in its development: the Hawai‘i Executive Collaborative, Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Hawai‘i P-20 and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii. More than 175 stakeholders were consulted from the community, businesses, nonprofits and government.

They have silenced my cynicism.

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