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The “Skills Gap,” the gap between the skills employers need and the skills potential employees possess, is a growing problem in Seattle and Washington state. A recent report issued by the Washington Roundtable found that in March 2013 there were 25,000 unfilled jobs in Washington as a result of the skills gap. That number could grow to 50,000 by 2017. A vast majority, 80 percent, are in high-skilled STEM and health care roles. As the skills gap continues to grow employers are going to have less motivation to keep jobs in Washington state and more potential employees will be stuck in underemployment, or worse, unemployment.

Tayloe Washburn, Dean and CEO of Northeastern University – Seattle, is dedicated to using his expertise to close the skills gap and bring individuals and organizations across the state together. In an article published in the Puget Sound Business Journal Washburn presented a plan to end the skills gap through increased collaboration between higher education, industry associations, employers and policy makers.

On June 18, 2014, Washburn brought together a panel of experts representing various facets of the issue to start a regional discussion that will lead to specific actions and collaboration. An overview of the panel participants, additional resources to further understand the skills gap and resources that can be leveraged to help close it are located on this webpage.


The skills gap may be a challenge facing our state today, but there are several tools and resources companies and prospective employees can leverage in order to move forward and help close this gap. Below are several resources we recommend you visit to see how you and your organization can aid in this effort.

Higher Education Resources

At Northeastern University we are committed to giving our students the chance to participate in experiential learning opportunities, like our highly successful Cooperative Education or “CO-OP” program. More than 7,500 Northeastern students work with 2,500 co-op employees in the U.S. and 80 other countries around the world each year. At our Seattle campus, our co-op students work with leading employers like Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft. Additionally, our Accelerated Link to Industry through Northwester’s Global Network (The ALIGN Program) helps students gain a master’s degree and transition into a successful career.

On the policy level, the Washington State House of Representatives and Senate have higher education committees that are tackling these issues. You can find their latest reports, legislation and plans on their websites.

Washington Workforce Training

Across the state of Washington there are 12 Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) that provide assistance for individuals who are unemployed or looking for a new employment. The WDCs provide coordination between education, training and employment efforts in their local communities. Washington CareerBridge also provides resources of 6,000 education and training programs at around 400 educational institutions around the state.

Looking forward over the next 10 years, the Washington State Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board has put together a strategic plan to drive workforce development and encourage high skills and high wages. Dave Wallace, Skills Gap panel member, has provided a presentation of additional data showing where the skills gap exists in the state

Panel Members 

Tayloe Washburn, Founding Dean and CEO, Northeastern University – Seattle 

Tayloe Washburn, a prominent lawyer and civic leader in Seattle, is the founding dean and chief executive officer of the Northeastern University Seattle graduate campus. Tayloe, a former chair of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, is experienced in building partnerships between the public and private sectors. He has long advocated for expanded educational opportunities in Seattle to prepare the region’s workforce for the needs of the 21st century economy. A nationally recognized attorney, he holds a law degree from the University of Washington, as well as a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in history, both from Stanford University. In addition to serving on the Chamber board, Tayloe’s work in the Seattle area community includes serving on the chair of the boards of Seattle King County Economic Development Council, Schools First!, and the Washington Aerospace Partnership, having been appointed by Governor Chris Gregoire


Mike Monroe, Chief Operating Officer, Washington Technology Industry Association

Mike Monroe is the Chief Operating Officer of the WTIA and is responsible for channel partnerships, product development, industry research, the WTIA intern program and customer service. He also writes for the WTIA Community Blog. Mike has a deep, varied and successful track record of establishing excellence in small and mid-size organizations. Prior to the WTIA, he held executive leadership roles at the Seattle Storm and Ql2 Software; building culture and operations for these mid-market organizations. Mike started his career in public accounting, working as an auditor and valuation consultant for Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Clark Nuber where he specialized in technology, insurance, and entertainment industry verticals. He is an active CPA and holds two business valuation credentials.


State Representative Larry Seaquist, Chair of the House of Representatives Higher Education Committee

First elected in 2006, Larry chairs the House Higher Education Committee. He also serves on the House Education and Appropriations Committees as well as on the Appropriations Sub-committee on Education. To assure that students, teachers, and community leaders are fully consulted as the legislature develops education policy and budgets Larry regularly convenes a “24 corners” group of state-wide stakeholders.




State Representative Chad Magendanz, member of the House of Representatives Higher

Education Committee

Chad Magendanz was first elected to the Washington State House of Representatives in 2012. He serves as a member of the Higher Education Committee and is the Ranking Republican on the Education Committee. Additionally he serves on the Technology and Economic Development Committee and the Rules Committee. He also serves as the Assistant Floor Leader. During the 2014 legislative session Rep. Magendanz represented his caucus while Senate Bill 6552, which creates a 24-credit high school diploma, boost science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction and gives local districts more flexibility, was crafted and negotiated before being signed into law by the governor. He previously served as the president of the Issaquah School Board.


Dave Wallace, Research Unit Manager, Washington State Workforce Training Board 

Dave Wallace is currently the Research Unit Manager for the Washington State Workforce Training Board. In that capacity he oversees and directs surveys, reports, data base management and stakeholder input.  Previous to working at the Workforce Board Mr. Wallace was the staff economist at the Washington State Commerce Department, working on program evaluation and economic development issues. Prior to Commerce, he served as the Chief Economist for the Employment Security Department.


Additional Organizations and Resources 

The Washington Technology Industry Association is committed to closing the skills gap through advocacy efforts and workforce development. The organization brings together the leaders of industry, education, and government to make Washington the world’s most creative and successful technology community.

The Technology Alliance is a Washington state based not-for-profit organization of leaders from technology-based businesses and research institutions across the state. Their 2014 annual report, “The Economic Impact of Technology-Based Industries in Washington State” shows just how key closing the skills gap is to keep technology-based companies in our region.

Community Attributes is a consulting firm that provides community and economic development, strategic planning and philanthropic and non-profit advisory services

Additional Resources of Interest  

To uncover ways that technology trends and innovations can be used in public policy to help create jobs, please check out “Technology, Innovation and Public Policy: Investing in Megatrends,” a presentation from Geoffrey Moore to the Technology Alliance on May 19, 2014 (PDF).

Google’s chairman and head of hiring, Laszlo Bock, commented in a recent article that Google doesn’t care about college degrees when hiring. Instead potential employees are expected to demonstrate a skill, not expertise.

A March 2014 report from The Brooking Institution outlines the grim situation that teens and young adults face in metro areas around the country. Many are finding themselves underemployed or unemployed, despite qualifications and skills. The report has a feature on the Seattle and Tacoma areas.