Saturday, December 10, 2005

Wake up America: Invest in brains that cannot be exported!

I know I usually post about technology and items to implement in your business, however every so often a stat comes to my attention in my educational reading. I came across this is the November 2005 issue of Edutopia:
The difference in annual pay between a person with a master's degree and a person over eighteen without a high school diploma. On average, graduates holding MA and MS degrees earn paychecks starting at $60,445, while those failing to graduate from high school take home $18,826. Getting that diploma boosts that figure by nearly ten grand, a bachelor's degree snatches a yearly income of $51,194, and those with doctorates start at $89,734.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Most business people I know would not argue with these numbers even if they are on the "wrong" side of the numbers. It is apparent that a college education which many view as an "extra" four years should not be considered "extra." It has often bothered me that we import and educate a significant number of students from overseas to our colleges when we have so many people that desperately need education.

With the inception of NAFTA and soon CAFTA and other free trade agreements that will invariably come our way -- we need to invest in the thing that will truly keep trade on our side -- education.

IN Design News' recent issue - they have a cover article -- America's High Tech Quandry.

In this article, the relay that China and India both are headed or already at one million engineers in their country. And that's not "watered down" engineering degrees such as some are purveying now -- but authentic, qualified, engineers. I'd like to quote from the article:

Indeed, what can we do? With China's educational system cranking out engineers like toy soldiers, with India simultaneously graduating some 350,000 engineers a year, and with the U.S. at just a small fraction of that—75,000 is the best guess—questions about America's future competitiveness are inevitable.

Increasingly, those questions are being asked by some of this country's most knowledgeable leaders: University deans; chief executives; military officials. They're worried, they say, because the United States is a country of lawyers and business executives, not engineers. So where will our competitiveness come from? How will we out-innovate countries that are graduating five, ten, maybe 15 times as many engineers as we are?

"It's going to put us at a significant disadvantage over the next few decades," notes Geoffrey C. Orsak, dean of the School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University (SMU). "Imagine if the next Microsoft is founded in China, rather than in the U.S. Ninety-five percent of the desktop computing would be controlled by people who might not be our allies."

It is time for us to wake up in America and stop making fun of the geeks -- and get our children to be them. No, not the kind of geek who sits in front of the computer and does nothing physical. We should be physically active, hardworking, intellectuals who can handle the rigors of complex thinking!

What is wrong with being an engineer? I'm married to one and he's great! He doesn't wear horn rimmed glasses and he doesn't snort when he laughs. He enjoys a good paycheck and good job doing work he loves.

As an educator, businessperson, and patriot -- I want to see our country succeed. We need to "dis" the stereotypes about engineers or we can "kiss" our prosperity goodbye.

A marketable labor force that is technically adept is essential to our future. Toyota and Hyndai have recently built plants here in the US and are doing well. To attract manufacturing -- we don't need cheap labor -- we need technically adept labor. Some of the biggest issues of these automakers has been training our labor force.

Education starts in elementary, middle, and high school but it must continue into college. And we must produce graduates in technical fields as a cornerstone of a prosperous future. For when we invest in education, we invest in America, as long as the bodies of the American people are here, their brains will be also.

1 comment:

Kerry Doyal said...

Neat thots. I have several engineer friends who would affirm this - as do I.