Unemployment now under 9% -the Science and Math Education Value Chain

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The unemployment numbers are out and the great news is that it is 8.9% – the first time under 9% in two years. The links of the education value chain, the favorite perspective of this blog, can be seen as elementary school-> middle school-> high school->trade school/college-> graduate school and let's explore what can be done to shore up US employment at each link of this chain.

While  I don't agree with everything Fareed Zakaria says,  I do share some of his concern. Here are some ideas to consider across the Science and Math education value chain:

  • The school system needs overhaul, not because teachers don't know their stuff, or have unions, but because the system allows too much student/parent/administrator questioning of the teacher with democracy gone too far. Math and Science departments are unpopular because it’s much harder to get an A or B if you have the problem wrong and the teacher gets blamed for not teaching. I am yet to see a happy Math or Science school teacher, what with the constant bickering.
  • Trade schools are great for a segment of students who are probably better off with trade skills -adding more high tech trade skills will help.  For eg. NASA electrician  skills is better for competitiveness  than  just neighborhood electrician skills. While the latest NASA crash is being investigated , a very large pool of  high end trade skills can't hurt.
  • Under Grad education is another point at which the now “free from parents” college students prefer to switch from science and engineering to other “feel good “ but “no job” fields.  There must be data but just look at your own college or your kid’s college and  ask did the number of engineering/science related majors decline in the same cohort from freshman to junior/senior year?
  • Graduate schools can help if it is possible to keep the brightest local undergrads in school. Big scholarships, comparable to undergrad salaries  can help. A large number of promising foreign students is often required to leave as this story suggests. Incidentally most graduate students in the sciences are foreign students.
  • At the consumption point – i.e. organizations with employees who are already in the workforce – the right "future" oriented training and education is a must. This is the quickest fix but competes with the natural urge of global companies to outsource or move whatever they can to lower cost locations. Just productivity training is not enough here as the American worker is already highly productive. So an  innovation oriented quantum re-training on future skills is needed.
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