D.C. unemployment rate the focus at conference

At a conference in Northwest, leaders from the D.C. government, the private sector, as well as schools and universities met to discuss the District's unemployment rate and how to connect unemployed residents with secure jobs.{ }

But, Tuesday's local economy conversation soon turned global.

"These are people who have influence on planning and policy in D.C.," Mayor Vincent Gray said.

At the job creation and workforce development conference, Gray gathered local leaders to strategize ways to help unemployed and out-of-school residents find work.

Lisa Mallory with D.C.'s Department of Employment Services explained, " And making sure that kids stay in school in an educational environment as long as possible before jumping into workforce, because their chances of success are much greater if they stay in the educational environment."

New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman, the event's featured speaker, said today's hyper connectivity will make technology jobs even more abundant.

"...when I was out there in 2005 saying the world is flat,... Facebook didn't exist, Twitter was still a sound, The Cloud was still in the sky, 4G was a parking place, LinkdIn was a prison, applications were what you sent to college and for most people Skype was a typo," Friedman said.

But, those jobs will also be more competitive as a web developer in Washington must now compete for work with we developers in London, Bangladesh, Beijing and elsewhere.

Limbic Systems President and CEO Marullus Williams added, "Tech is one of those areas that's a high growth field. We cannot afford to have our residents not engaged in the tech sector because quite frankly that's where the growth will be in the next years."

D.C. employment officials know they need to train more District residents for these jobs of the future, which require a strong foundation in math and science.

"Well, we know that we have a lot of silos. And we know that our resources are diminishing, so we need to figure out how to fill those gaps but working together so collaboration is a key right now," Mallory continued.

At the same time, employers realize, it's a two-way street.

Williams said, "There really needs to be more engagement with the technology biz in the city. We really need to have folks who are in the tech comm empowering kids through summer internships, being willing to hire folks right out of school.