Issue 5, 2013. October-November

   

NEW MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE COMPACT TO BRIDGE WORK-SKILL GAP

The $140 million grant, Georgia's second compact, will target education and human capital to help Georgians compete in the 21st-century workplace.

Georgia is focused on curtailing brain drain and improving labor market skills in the country's second compact with the U.S. government's Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC).

Signed on July 26, the new compact will allocate $140 million to three specific areas: improving the quality of elementary education, modernizing vocational education to meet market demands, and partnering a U.S. university with local partners to provide students with international-standard degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.

The new compact is a strong departure from Georgia's original 2005 MCC grant, which focused largely on infrastructure.

The 2013 agreement, noted MCC CEO Daniel W. Yohannes, reflects Georgia's desire to create a modern, competitive workforce.

"[What the government] determined is that education is a critical sector for economic growth and the proposed compact would help the country become more competitive in the global market — I think it is expected to increase wages and it is also designed to prepare the next-generation work force," he said in an interview.

"That is going to help the country compete in the global market... The program of science, technology, math, engineering — that will meet the demand of this country's market needs in the future."

Yohannes, who was in Tbilisi in July for the official compact signing, noted that the new compact's programs will marry top-rated education with international-standard accreditation. MCC is already in discussion with shortlisted American universities who are interested in partnering with a local school to create an American degree program. Prestigious American universities like San Diego State University and Michigan State University have expressed interest; a final decision is expected in 2014.

The compact is also working closely with the business community in Georgia to make sure new programs match current — and projected — needs in the market. By closing the gap between skills and demand, and providing Georgians with better tools to compete in the labor market, Yohannes noted, brain drain should decrease.

"I think this investment is also going to encourage businesses to make additional investment here in this country and that way they don't have to go outside where they can find skills," he said.

"I think in the long term that is going to have a huge impact on this country because it is going to prepare the next-generation workforce that is going to have specialties in a lot of the areas that we are putting an emphasis on — science, technology, math, engineering.Those are major required skills and I think that will help to stop the drainage that has existed."