If finding capital was one of the biggest issues for entrepreneurs in the past two presidential elections, finding qualified labor is the most pressing concern today. "It's the work-force issues that are at the top," says NSBU president Todd McCracken. "That's not only true of the American Express survey; it's true of every other survey I've seen."
One of the most generally accepted problems: Young people aren't coming out of school qualified to work. Both Bush and Gore favor establishing higher standards and charter schools and ex-panding savings accounts to help pay for education. However, Bush leaves the decision-making at state and local levels. Gore favors more federal funding, especially to pay for school construction and classroom computers.
With far more relevance to current employees, the vice president wants to make learning (hence, worker training) a lifelong process. He proposes a 401(j) savings plan that would be similar to the 401(k) retirement plan. The new program would fund kids in college or parents adding skills for current jobs. Better still, employers could contribute to the tax-exempt accounts. Bush wants to increase deductions for education savings account from $500 to $5,000, but makes no mention of employer contributions.
Bush also sees a second way to increase the number of qualified workers: Increase the labor pool. He offers two plans to do so: Eliminate the Social Security earnings test that limits seniors from re-entering the workforce, and increase the number of H-1B visas (currently 115,000) to allow more trained foreign workers into the country. Gore supports increasing the number of such foreign workers to more than 200,000.
What's your beef? "Loud And Clear" shows you how to complain your way up to Washington.