Manufacturing | Who Will Make it in America?

Andrew Liveris, in Make it in America, makes a strong case for reviving US-based manufacturing as a means of revitalizing the US economy.

As part of his analysis, he tackles the touchy topic of education.

He highlights these facts from a 2010 Bill Gates' speech to the American Federation of Teachers:
  • Per-pupil spending has doubled since 1973
  • Adult-student ratios have tightened from one adult for every 14 students to one for every eight
  • Math and reading scores remain flat
  • Graduation rates have plummeted from second in the world to sixteenth
  • Our 15 year olds now rank behind 22 countries in science and behind 31 in math

Look to other sources and you’ll find slightly different figures, but the core problems are the same.

Liveris offers a high-level strategy for refocusing education on performance outcomes and workforce development, as part of his manufacturing-based revitalization concept.  Briefly, he recommends:

K-12 Education
  • Teacher quality – Attract and keep the best teachers in the classroom
  • National standards – Eliminate the patchwork approach and adopt uniform standards
  • Innovation in classrooms – Encourage and reward innovation, particularly in STEM teaching (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math)

Continuing Education Reform
  • Skills training – Support skills-based training and education, particularly at the community college level
  • Tax credits – Give tax breaks to employers who help employees pursue continuing education
  • STEM scholarships – Offer generous scholarships to undergraduate and graduate STEM students

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or controversial about these recommendations, but they define a starting point.

Let's be clear. No single entity, trend or incident caused us to turn away from our manufacturing roots. We all must own the problem, because finding solutions and mapping new paths for industry and innovation are pivotal to our future.

This means as business people and educators, we must discover ways to introduce youngsters to the fascinating possibilities of industry, innovation, design and production, sparking both their interest and imagination. We must do more than reduce the STEM achievement gap, we must eliminate it. At every level, we must graduate more students with the knowledge, skill and motivation to pursue all sorts of STEM and manufacturing-related careers.

Big challenges? Yes. Impossible challenges? No.

Can we make it in America? The US is still a manufacturing powerhouse, but we can do better. If we want to revive and stabilize the economy, we must solve the education piece of the puzzle.

Otherwise, we'll soon be asking a different question: Who will make it in America?

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