Education in a New Economy
Economic downturns are a good time for workers to adapt their skills to the changing labor market.
Tough economic times always send unemployed workers back to school. When people are losing their jobs and the forecast looks gloomy, there is no better time to examine the integrity of the foundation of our economy -- education.
Utah Stories will be taking a close look at education for the 21st Century. This "21st century" approach to education has become one of most overused political clichès, and I intend to clichè it out some more. But rather than offering superficial coverage and genealities, Utah Stories will be offering stories and case studies from those who are leading the pack in reshaping our education system.
We would like to offer a clear picture of the future of education so that the antiquated powers understand how the new global economy has shaped the labor market dramatically in the past 20 years. As the economy and labor needs change, it becomes increasingly important that education, and the skills learning institutions pass on, change too.
Dynamic Changes in the Economic Picture
To illustrate this point we only need examine where we have come in one generation. Just 25 years ago Utah's economy was primarily centered around mining and metal production. Geneva Steel and Kennecott Copper were the leaders providing thousands of jobs through direct and indirect employment. These jobs included steel fabricators, mining subcontractors, freight companies and engineering firms. Today, Utah's labor market and economy have changed dramatically along with most of the United States. For nearly 20 years manufacturing has sharply declined in the U.S. because Asian countries produce and fabricate steel cheaper and better than we can. Utah's economy has fared well through this transition -- by-in-large thanks to the adaptation that has occurred in Utah's Universities. Most are unaware of the amazing impact Utahns, who came out of our local Universities from the computing sciences have had on the new economy:
How Utah Computing Pioneers Shaped Our Economy
Just as the U.S. steel market began to decline in the late 1970's the University of Utah began pioneering work in computer graphics technology. Out of the U's computing department a few men had some very forward-thinking ideas about how computers could be used for visualization for myriad applications: ranging from entertainment to military training. These men went on to start some of the most successful computer visulization companies in the world: Ed Catmull, co-founded Pixar (of Disney fame: Toy Story, Cars and Wall-E). John Warnock, co-founded Adobe in 1982; Dr. David C. Evans and Dr. Ivan E. Sutherland, wrote software and algorithms to use computers for virtual reality simulations. These systems were first used by the military to train fighter jet pilots using 3D images projected onto screens along with hydraulic controlled cockpits--able to react to pilot's decisions in real-time. This technology lead to the computer graphics revolution in video games, which is today a $27.5 billion industry. (source) . Novel was started out of BYU's Eyring Research Institute, Founder Dennis Fairclough now teaches at Utah Valley State University.
The bottom line: because Utah Universities adapted their education to produce minds ready for an economy based more on computers and services, then products and fabrication, Utah's economy has managed to succeed and lead in the new economy.
This paradigm shift in our economy happened naturally through the free-market, there was no government intervention involved. Now a similar shift needs to occur in education. There are no longer absolutes or certainties in the new economy. the only certainty is that everyone needs to be learning, improving and adapting all the time.
Coming Stories on Education in a New Economy
For the next month Utah Stories will be highlighting some of the best education success stories from public schools to Universities. There is no better time than during a recession to educate and evaluate the skills that will help us to all better succeed. The following is a list of stories we are currently working on:
- Computers in Education
- A Look Back at the Voucher Battle
- Charter School Success Stories in Science and Arts
- Traditional Universities vs. Career Colleges
- The Best Degrees for the Future Economy
These stories and this investigation requires your help. If you can comment or provide tips for these stories, we will be more certain to give these important topics the coverage they deserve.