At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we began with a basic question: What can we do? We saw right away that our work supporting America’s critical infrastructure could help us address the challenges facing our nation.
So, when state and local leaders asked for support to expand hospital infrastructure, we delivered our power and building technologies in record time. When we were called upon to help manufacture personal protective equipment, we organized a full-scale production network capable of producing 100,000 face shields per week.
When shutdowns forced millions to work from home, our teams on the front lines made sure essential services like power, water and transportation weren’t interrupted. And when the call went out for greater testing capacity, Siemens Healthineers came through with a test to detect active infections of COVID-19 and a test to detect its antibodies. These tests are now being shipped worldwide, with Healthineers’ U.S. manufacturing sites ready to ramp up production to more than 50 million antibody tests this month.
While facing a health and economic crisis, we then entered a historic moment for advancing racial equality and justice. I’ve never sensed and felt so strongly a national consciousness of the need to change society. And I truly believe it’s in moments like these that we have the greatest opportunity to create the future we want.
Our work at Siemens to build a more resilient America goes beyond supporting critical infrastructure. It requires us to help build a country that is more equal, equitable and more committed to healing wounds that have been open for far too long. As we accelerate our progress in diversity, equity and inclusion, I’ve asked my team to focus on supporting each other, on speaking up, and on modeling empathy, compassion and change.
And in supporting America’s economic recovery, this is a critical time to focus on the people who make infrastructure possible.
Talent is equally distributed across humanity. Yet from the Great Recession a decade ago to full employment prior to this crisis, we have struggled to engage and cultivate the full range of talent in our society in the work of running and maintaining America’s infrastructure, from factories to power plants and transportation.
Now we face an additional challenge in that millions of jobs are unlikely to come back, requiring many workers to transition into new industries. More than ever, the country needs an inclusive workforce development agenda that brings more people into the process and doesn't leave anyone behind.
State-and-local community colleges and technical training centers provide accessible, affordable postsecondary education opportunities and are the heart of America’s workforce development system. It’s vital to ensure these institutions have the resources they need to partner with businesses and keep open pathways that workers can turn to in order to rapidly upskill.
Companies will need to continue investing in lifelong learning and, when hiring, make sure good candidates aren’t being left out of recruiting pools due to unnecessary four-year degree requirements. I’d like to see more youth apprenticeships; more use of digital tools to rapidly retrain workers; and more emphasis on the value of transferable skills.
The mindset we need going forward is one that strengthens our business while driving shared prosperity and inclusion that strengthens society, for everyone, for the long-term. Think about a commitment shared by both the public and private sector to marry the business need for skilled workers with the societal need to increase access to fulfilling, good-paying careers.
Technology is only as powerful as the people behind it. And the technology we possess today will be even more powerful if America’s workforce truly reflects the society that its infrastructure is meant to serve, and if the doors are truly open wide to anyone who demonstrates curiosity and initiative.
Published: June 16, 2020