Workforce Education

The chairman of the Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Committee on Measuring Innovation, Carl Schramm, notes that “Nobel Laureate Gary Becker developed a theory that empirically established that people were more important to an economy than physical capital. Becker’s now obvious observation is central to conscious attempts to induce more innovation. In his book The Vital Few, economist theorist Jonathan Hughes points out that the welfare of society, connected as it is to innovation and entrepreneurship, hangs on a very small number of our fellow citizens.”12

Dean Yash Gupta of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School further notes that “… 30 years ago the United States had 30 percent of the world’s college students. Today we are at 14 percent and falling. Twenty years ago the U.S. was first among industrialized nations in share of population with a high school diploma and first with a college degree. Today, we are ninth in high school diplomas (and) seventh in college degrees worldwide. We are 18th out of 24 in high school graduation (rate) among industrialized nations … and falling.”13 At the same time, employers indicate that knowledge demands on all employees are higher than ever. A recent case reported in The New York Times stated that a firm seeking to hire employees was able to find only 47 who were qualified out of an applicant pool of 3,600.14

Science, Engineering and Mathematics

It has increasingly become recognized that to be competitive in the global technology-dominated marketplace requires a highly qualified workforce. This in turn demands that virtually all job-seekers be at least “proficient” in mathematics and general science and that the nation have a cadre of highly creative individuals who possess an extraordinary capacity for mathematics, science and engineering.

It is not necessary—or even possible—to seek to match nations such as China and


Carl Schramm, Made in America, The National Interest, April 2010. Available at: http://www.usinnovation.org/files/SchrammMadeinAmerica.pdf.


Y. Gupta, Innovation: Can a Nation Have a Second Act? Speech to the Baltimore Rotary, June 8, 2010. Figures in this quote may differ from similar indicators cited in other parts of this report due to different sources or coverage in terms of dates, degrees (four-year vs. combined two- and four-year) or countries.


M. Rich, Factory Jobs Return, but Employers Find Skills Shortage, The New York Times, July 1, 2010.

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