In speaking events across the country this week and last, President Obama has forcefully articulated the importance of education and workforce readiness as a national economic imperative. Lamenting the state of U.S. education during one of his ‘backyard chats’ in Albuquerque, New Mexico last Tuesday, he recited the alarming numbers: Having only recently led the industrialized nations in educational attainment, he said:
…We now rank 21st in science education in the world, and we rank 25th in math education in the world…We’ve got a third of our students who enroll who never graduate from high school. [N]ot only is it bad for the young people who aren’t getting this education… but it’s also bad for the country as a whole because we don’t have as many engineers, we don’t have as many scientists, we’re not inventing the new products that are going to make all the difference in terms of how well we succeed…Who’s going to prioritize our young people to make sure they’ve got the skills they need to succeed over the long term? Nothing is going to be more important in terms of our long-term success.
He continued the theme this week in remarks at the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges, which Corporate Voices’ CEO and Executive Chair Donna Klein was honored to attend. There, President Obama said:
We are in a global competition to lead in the growth industries of the 21st century. And that leadership depends on a well-educated, highly skilled workforce. We know, for example, that in the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate’s degree are going to grow twice as fast as jobs that don’t require college. We will not fill those jobs -– or keep those jobs on our shores –- without community colleges… So it was no surprise when one of the main recommendations of my Economic Advisory Board -– who I met with yesterday -– was to expand education and job training. These are executives from some of America’s top companies. Their businesses need a steady supply of people who can step into jobs involving a lot of technical knowledge and skill. They understand the importance of making sure we’re preparing folks for the jobs of the future.
This, of course, is core to our mission here at Corporate Voices. That is why we released a new report the same day of the White House Summit highlighting the importance of industry partnerships with community colleges to increase workforce readiness and college completion rates. Importantly, these partnerships enable young people to successfully combine postsecondary education and work.
We are pleased to hear these issues and goals articulated as a national imperative by the President and his top economic counselors.