Today’s U.S. economy is confronted with a new and remarkable paradox. The economy continues to grow and roughly two million new jobs were created each year since 2004; however, in the next decade, two-thirds of new jobs will require some postsecondary education beyond a high school degree. To be competitive and create the conditions for strong economic growth, states need to help all their residents increase their skills and be prepared for lifelong learning.
Our nation has a powerful incentive to improve the education pipeline. “Good jobs”—jobs that are growing quickly and pay enough to support a family of four—require postsecondary education or training. More than two-thirds of workers in occupations and industries that are growing have at least some postsecondary education, compared with one-third of workers in occupations and industries that are declining. A rapid increase in the demand for postsecondary education will be accompanied by baby-boom retirements, resulting in a predicted shortage of more than 14 million college educated workers by 2020.
While the American higher education system has long been a centerpiece of the U.S. economy and the launching pad for the jobs of the future, the skills needed by students today are far different than the expectations and education of yesterday. Today, integrating diverse subject matters is as important as mastering individual ones. Students not only need to be well-rounded, they also need entrepreneurial skills, and the capacity to imagine and adapt to the unknown.
The National Governors Association (NGA), together with the Council on Competitiveness, developed Innovation America: A Partnership, a set of legislative proposals to complement federal activity and encourage state efforts to accelerate the rate of U.S. innovation and promote competitiveness and economic prosperity. The NGA federal package proposes a federal policy framework to assist states in developing collaborative efforts between public, private and education sectors in three broad areas of reform: Education, Workforce Development and Regional Investment. The following is a brief summation of the Education and Workforce Development sections and related governors’ federal recommendations:
Education Reform—Math, Science and Foreign Language Proficiency
Aligning and refocusing education from birth to college (P-16) is essential to ensure our nation’s competitiveness. The skills needed for individuals to compete and prosper in the global economy require a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and foreign languages. Governors’ seek to create a targeted, but flexible and coordinated, approach to address these critical national education needs through federal recommendations in the following key areas:
- Support for Students and Teachers. Programs to encourage students to pursue higher education and careers in mathematics, science, technology, engineering and critical foreign languages, and to infuse the education pipeline with high quality STEM and critical foreign language teachers, particularly in high-need and hard-to-staff schools.
- STEM Education Improvement Grants. Matching grants to governors or a consortium of governors to provide resources and technical assistance to implement or expand STEM education and infrastructure activities.
- High School Redesign Enhancement. Programs to expand and replicate governor-led high school redesign efforts around the country.
- Voluntary International Benchmarking. Grants to allow governors to request a voluntary analysis of state standards with the skills being measured on Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and incentive grants to implement governor-led solutions.
- State P-16 Alignment. Matching grants to implement or develop aligned state P-16 councils and implement solutions to patch holes in the P-16 pipeline and direct grants to create efficient state P-16 longitudinal data systems.
The strength of America is our citizens – their innovation, creativity and hard work. Governors’ proposal would help states create efficient workforce systems aligned with regional education and economic development; enhance services to workers; and reduce costly administrative burdens to regions, states and localities, while creating more transparent accountable systems. Specifically, governors recommend changes to the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and related programs to create the following:
- State and Regional Economic Alignment Program. The program will increase coordination, innovation and effectiveness of state workforce programs.
- Common Outcome Measures. The program will increase workforce system alignment through NGA common accountability measures, while focusing on meaningful customer outcomes related to education and employment readiness, reducing administrative costs and increasing transparency to evaluate federal, state and local investments.
- State and Regional Economic Development through Workforce Investment. The program will award matching grants to states to carry out innovative and coordinated WIA programming consistent with the statewide, regional or sector specific economic and educational interests.
Innovation American: A Partnership Legislative Proposal
NGA Executive Committee Letter on Competitiveness and America COMPETES ACT
July 20, 2007 letter (from Governor Napolitano and Governor Pawlenty) to Senate Majority Leader Reid, Senate Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Boehner offering strategies from the states on competitiveness and presenting recommendations about the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (S. 761) and the 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007 (H.R. 2272).
NGA Testimony on Innovation America
March 22, 2007 testimony before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness on Innovation America.
NGA Letter to Secretary Spellings Regarding AC Grants
May 17, 2006 letter (from Governor Huckabee and Governor Napolitano) to U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings urging her to allow eligible dual enrollees to be awarded Academic Competitiveness grants and recognize any state plan submitted for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years.