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New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce report released today December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Workforce.

The Commission’s 28-page PDF executive summary of their report, Tough Choices or Tough Times, is available here.  I gather that the report is being formally released to the public at 10AM today in Washington, DC.

I haven’t had a chance to read it all in depth, but my review indicates a couple things:

1. The Commission is suggesting that the United States transition itself to a largely creative economy.  That means:

  • Research
  • Development
  • Design
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Global Supply Chain Management

2. To get to this point, the United States needs to confront some tough realities about its education system:

The core problem is that our education and training systems were built for another era, an era in which most workers needed only a rudimentary education.  It is not possible to get where we have to go by patching that system.  There is not enough money at any level of our intergovernmental system to fix this problem by spending more on the system we have.  We can get where we must go only by changing the system itself.

Powerful material, indeed – and considering the supporting materials already circulated like the aforementioned Time Magazine cover story and today’s Thomas Friedman op-ed in the New York Times (subscription to TimesSelect required…sigh), it looks like this Commission has the ears of influential policy leaders.  The emphasis on the creative element – perhaps the “creative” moniker – is somewhat surprising to me, but it’s encouraging to see that leaders like those on the bipartisan Commission are looking in that direction for our country’s future.


WIRED: Colorado, North Carolina, Montana December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, WIRED, Workforce.
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A good day for WIRED news…

COLORADO: The Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation is starting the Colorado Energy Coalition to advance the Rocky Mountain State’s position in the emerging energy industry. And there’s a WIRED tie-in:

The CEC also wants to help ensure the state has a highly educated, well-trained work force for the energy sector. The coalition will work with the Metro Denver WIRED Initiative, a $15 million U.S. Department of Labor grant intended to increase the number of skilled workers for the region’s fastest-growing industries, such as energy.

Kevin Thompson from the US Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration forwarded me this complementary article from the Denver Post.

The Denver EDC offers this energy cluster overview, which is worth a read if you want to learn more about how Denver is selling itself to the energy sector.  Lots of skilled workforce data in there.

NORTH CAROLINA: Representatives of Piedmont Triad, the managing partner in the Tar Heel State’s 12-county WIRED initiative, will be attending the 19th Annual Performance Racing Industry trade show in Orlando this weekend. The article discusses motorsports’ importance to North Carolina and the fact that Piedmont Triad is leading WIRED, but no other direct ties are made. Will North Carolina be investing WIRED money in the motorsports industry?

MONTANA: The Montana State Univesity-Billings College of Technology received $1.99 million from the Federal government’s Community-Based Job Training Grant program for the creation of an Energy Workforce Training and Development Center. In part, the grant will “support the educational needs of the State of Montana WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) initiative to advance the development of biofuels, natural and renewable resources.”

WIRED: Northwest Florida overview December 13, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, WIRED, Workforce.
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The Gulf Breeze News offers a concise overview of the 16-county, “Great Northwest” Florida WIRED project. While not revealing anything particularly new, the article did a good job touching the high points. I especially liked their program options and target industry listing:

The WIRED initiative for Northwest Florida includes:

  • Entrepreneurship development designed to enable qualifying start-up companies to secure seed capital.
  • Grants enabling job training for new and existing businesses in the target industries.
  • Secondary education academy development for entrylevel employment in selected industries or accelerated college preparation in the subject areas of math and science.
  • Outreach programs to educate and attract students of all ages into training programs to meet workforce demands.
  • Strategic development component designed to ensure workforce development programs are developing skills necessary to meet current and future target industry needs.

The target industries as defined by the state are:

  • Aerospace and defense
  • Medical device manufacturing, biotechnology and health services where 70 percent of the company’s revenue is generated by sales outside of the Northwest Florida region.
  • Information technology, software development and Electronics engineering.
  • Construction materials manufacturing
  • Distribution activities that support the target industries.

Video: Former MIT President on the future of engineering education December 13, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Innovation, Technology, Workforce.
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When Charles H. Vest, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talks about “Educating Engineers for 2020 and Beyond” (link to a 72-minute Real.com video), we who care about engineering as a means to economic growth should pay close attention. As a teaser, here’s a clip of the MIT World summary:

Vest perceives two key frontiers of engineering: the intersection of physical, life and information sciences — so-called bio, nano, info– “which offers stunning, unexplored possibilities;” and the macro world of energy, food, manufacturing, communications, which presents “daunting challenges of the future.”

The kind of students Vest hopes will explore these new frontiers should reflect a diverse society, write and communicate well, think about ethics and social responsibility, conceive and operate systems of great complexity within a framework of sustainable development and be prepared to live and work as global citizens. It’s a “tall order,” admits Vest, but “there are men and women every day here who seem to be able to do all these things and more.”

To prepare this new generation, engineering schools should focus on creating an environment that provides inspiration. In the long run, offering “exciting, creative adventures, rigorous, demanding and empowering milieus is more important than specifying details of the curriculum,” says Vest. Students are “driven by passion, curiosity, engagement and dreams.” Give them opportunities to discover and do – to participate in research teams, perform challenging work in industry, gain professional experience in other countries. Vest says, “We must ensure the best and brightest become engineers of 2020 and beyond. We can’t afford to fail.” [Emphasis added]

A closer look at modern education in a post-modern age December 13, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education.
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The Intangible Economy refers us to a Time Magazine cover article (UPDATED: You’ll have to sit through an advertisement to read…sigh…) called “How to bring out schools out of the 20th century.” It’s very good stuff that follows up on Time’s outstanding “Dropout Nation” article. I also appreciate that Tim not only points out shortcomings but offers examples of solutions in their complementary, “Building a new student in Michigan:”

For three months last fall a task force of [Michigan] state education officials, school superintendents, college deans and a Ford Motor Company executive pored over scholarly research on curriculum reform, borrowed ideas from private schools with strong college preparatory curricula and International Baccalaureate programs that infuse instruction with a global perspective. The panel also studied the education policies in countries such as Singapore, whose students routinely ace international proficiency exams. And the group consulted education chiefs from states that were early adopters of tougher standards, including Indiana, Oregon and Arkansas—all of which require four years of English and at least three years of math and science.


Creative industries generate wealth in young workforce December 13, 2006

Posted by Tom in Economic Development, Innovation, Research, WIRED, Workforce.
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At least, that’s what one Australian university researcher has found.

One in three of Australia’s young multimillionaires aged 40 or under made their fortunes in the “creative industries”, research shows. Among the older millionaires, only one in 10 were involved in creative pursuits.

“The pay-off for being a great designer or a great artist has never been better,” said Jason Potts, an economist at Queensland University of Technology. [Dr. Potts works for the Centre of Excllence for Creative Industries and Innovation.] “There are much greater opportunities today for people who follow their muses.”

BRW‘s Young Rich list for 2006 reveals 37 per cent of the 100 multimillionaires made their fortunes in the creative industries, which Dr Potts defines as architecture, advertising, art, fashion, film, publishing, software, entertainment, TV and video games. Sport, museum work and tourism are excluded. They toiled as entertainers (9 per cent), developing software (10 per cent), in fashion and design (11 per cent) and in new media (6 per cent).

Sarah-Jane Clarke, 32, who has made it to the BRW list as a co-founder of the fashion label sass & bide, said: “When we started we never thought about making money; a lot of creative people don’t. We wanted to create beautiful things.”

She said being part of a global market Australian designers could sell their products to the world, but “it’s more competitive”.

Dr Potts said: “It’s not enough just to go to art school. The huge rewards go to those who are exceptional. The difference today is that the Beatles, in terms of the fortune they made, were a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. Now we turn these people out once every six months.”

Frankly, I find myself struggling to grasp with the implications of this information.


Second round of Community-Based Job Training Grants awarded December 12, 2006

Posted by Tom in Workforce.
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From Kevin Thompson at the US Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration:

Department Awards $125 Million in Second Competition for President’s Community-Based Job Training Grants

The Department of Labor today awarded 72 community college partnerships $125 million for successfully competing under the President’s Community-Based Job Training Grants initiative. The institutions selected today will embark on projects in industries ranging from healthcare and construction to advanced manufacturing and energy. A total of 429 entries were submitted in response to a competition announced July 3.

Introduced by President Bush in his 2004 State of the Union Address, the primary purpose of Community-Based Job Training Grants is to build community colleges’ capacity to equip workers with the skills growing local industries require for success. The first round of these competitive awards was made to 70 successful entities on Oct. 19, 2005.

The 72 grants awarded today will support projects in 34 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Forty-five states now host such ventures.

December 11 News Release and Listing of Grantees

Additional Background on the Community-Based Job Training Grants / Listing of Grantees under Initial Competition

Guide to technology-based economic development December 12, 2006

Posted by Tom in Economic Development, Technology.
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Another hat tip, this time to Tech Futures, who highlighted the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI), based less than 5 minutes away from me in Westerville, Ohio.  (And I never knew they were there!  Shame on me!)

Among this group’s many offerings is a PDF called “A Resource Guide for Technology-based Economic Development” – which was a project they did for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.  It outlines an approach based on three core principles:

  1. Positioning Universities as Drivers
  2. Fostering Entrepreneurship
  3. Increasing Access to Capital

For a small site, the SSTI offers a package that is remarkably robust with much information that is relevant to readers of this weblog.  Tech Futures also suggests signing up for SSTI’s free weekly digest.  I just did.

Insights on Sustainable Small Town Development December 11, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Workforce.
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The Boomtown Institute’s Jack Schultz brought to my attention a publication by Rural Partners of Michigan called “101+ Concepts for Sustainable Small Town Development”  (PDF, 10MB).  The publication combines small town wit and wisdom with volumes of excellent pieces of advice on how to maintain (if not grow) small towns in our global ecomony.

Among the many items are a few workforce related nuggets like this one:

35. On manufacturing in rural areas – “According to a recent study, high-performance manufacturing firms favor rural areas. Indeed they look favorably upon rural regions not because they are seeking out a low-cost site, but because rural workers are perceived to be more flexible and hold stronger work ethics.” George Erickcek, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

While the publication is geared toward small cities and towns, many of the notions presented within are valid regardless of the size of your community.

Boise State students measuring creativity of their community December 11, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Research, Workforce.
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Honest, I’m not looking for content about Boise. It just seems to be finding me. This time, it’s from the Idaho Business Review (Thanks to Ed Morrison at Brewed Fresh Daily for the lead) :

Fourteen Boise State University honors students have devised a way to measure the level of creativity and innovation at work in the city of Boise.