Innovation in Europe

While much has been made of the innovation gap in the United States, European governments are also searching for ways to boost innovation on their side of the Atlantic as well.  According to Germany’s junior minister for education and research, Dr. Georg Schutte, Europe needs to better link education, research, and entrepreneurship.  Marie Geoghegan-Quinn of the European Commission has argued that it would be beneficial for Europe to focus on implementing broad societal changes and  improving the flow of knowledge to best foster innovation.

Geoghegan-Quinn, the Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, has been tasked by the European Commission with drafting their Research and Innovation Strategy which is to be published later this year.  Some would argue, however, that this report is long overdue as access to venture capital and intellectual property assurances have been more difficult to come by.  The report is designed to help Europe enjoy a ‘smart, sustainable, and inclusive economy’ for years to come.

Posted by: Clark Taylor

Sources: EMT Worldwide, EurActiv.com, European Commission, publicservice.co.uk

Photo credit: Edificio Berlaymont courtesy of flickr user Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

Manufacturing and The American Economy

As global economic cooperation increases trade relations and interconnectivity between nations, the United States is faced with newer challenges.  From a peak number of close to 20 million employees in the late 1970’s, the number of those employed in the manufacturing sector currently stands at 11.7 million.  Meanwhile, some have argued that the number of manufacturing jobs sustained by the U.S. economy has decreased due to an increased level of worker productivity.

In order to help maintain a viable workforce the National Council for Advanced Manufacturing has developed a policy initiative entitled “America’s 21st Century Learning System”  to which 32 trade associations and professional societies have now signed on.  Some of the proposals included in the initiative include implementing world-class education standards, increasing applied learning, and strengthening career counseling.

Posted by: Michael Darden

Sources: Carpe Diem, govtrack, NACFAM, USA Today

Photo Credit: motion gears -team force Courtesy of flickr user ralphbijker

Addressing Economic Literacy

As the American economy begins to emerge from the financial downturn, many people are arguing that the problem is in part due to a lack of economic literacy.  In a speech in his native Arkansas, former president Bill Clinton  remarked, “The mess we got into in this country is that people didn’t have enough economic literacy.”  Though not going as far as the former president, Nan J. Morrison, President and CEO of The Council of Economic Education has argued that, “The economic turbulence of the past few years has certainly heightened the importance of economic and financial literacy.”

While a general lack of economic literacy may have played a role in the current economic climate, policy-makers are not without solutions.  A bill was proposed in House of Representatives in the previous Congress that sought to increase funding for financial and economic literacy.  The New Jersey Department of Education, meanwhile, has adopted updated academic standards stipulating that students must now take courses in financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy in order to graduate.

Posted by: Michael Darden

Sources: CBS  Money Watch, Council for Economic Education, GovIt, Politics Daily

Photo Credit: Economics, finance, and marketing courtesy of flickr user JaulaDeArdilla

Incentivizing Teacher Performance

In many ways, a student’s performance is tied to the performance of his or her teacher; thus, understanding the keys to being a good teacher is imperative in order to maintain a healthy education system.

The Center for American Progress recently published “Measuring What Matters: A Stronger Accountability Model for Teacher Education,” which argues that regulation should focus on “…whether or not students are learning, how effectively teachers have developed their classroom skills, recent graduates’ committment to teaching as a professional career, feedback from graduates and employers, and tests of teachers knowledge.”  The Wilson Center has previously explored the issue of teacher performance by taking a closer look at the medical school model.

The lucrative Race to the Top grants emphasize the role of teachers and specifically name teacher accountability as one of four specific areas of reform.  As a result, many states reformed their teacher accountability policies in order to best position themselves to receive Race to the Top funds.  With the announcement of the winners earlier today, states are sure to be desirous of recruiting the best and the brightest into their ranks of teachers.

Posted by: Monica Schager

Sources: Associated Press, Center for American Progress, New York Times, Woodrow Wilson Center, U.S. Department of Education, Washington Post

Photo Credit: Teacher 2 Teacher Conference courtesy of flickr user Danny Nicholson

STEM at the State Level

With the recent executive order signed by Governor Phil Bredesen, Tennessee joins the collection of states who have developed state-wide STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education initiatives.  Tennessee’s STEM Innovation Network will be administered by the Tennessee Department of Education and will share many characteristics of other state-wide STEM programs like the Pennsylvania STEM Initiative, which seeks to “create the foundation for the state’s future competitiveness.”

President Obama recently pointed to the Pennsylvania initiative as “… a shining example of how the nation should overhaul STEM education.”  While STEM education has risen in prominence in the national education conversation, and while local control of schools is still a challenging issue, according to the National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions, “…it is at the state level that legislation has its most direct and profound influence on the future outcomes of science, mathematics, and technology education.”

Posted by: Monica Schager

Sources: State of Tennessee, CivSource, National High School Alliance, Pennsylvania STEM Initiative, The White House, Education Week, National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions.

Photo Credit: 10_08_PhysicsIL_172 Courtesy of flickr user rachel.crowl.

Enrollment in Community Colleges

Enrollment in community colleges is up across the country.  As the economy continues to struggle, more and more students are choosing to attend community colleges rather than traditional undergraduate institutions.  Furthermore, many who are seeking skills to position themselves more favorably for employment are choosing to attend community colleges to further their education.

Community colleges have also been shown to have a positive impact not only on those who attend, but on communities as a whole.  The Texas Comptroller has argued that whether directly or indirectly, “…all Texas communities reap the benefits of community colleges.”

As enrollment in community colleges increases, so does their potential to help transform our workforce into a more educated and nimble one.  Commenting on data compiled by the American Association of Community Colleges, former chancellor of the Maricopa County Community College District Paul Eisner urged (subscription required) community colleges to imbue their graduates with the skills necessary to thrive in the new economy.  Eisner, with an eye towards the future, noted the importance of community colleges and asked, “We have lots of skilled workers, but do they have the right skills?”

Posted by: Clark Taylor

Sources: azcentral.com, Canadian Business Online, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Massachusetts Community Colleges, mync.com, Texas Comptroller of Public Accountants, WXVT.

Photo Credit: West Virginia Northern Community College courtesy of flickr user taberandrew

Ingredients for Successful Innovation

Like most goals, there is no agreed upon path to follow to become successfully innovative.  Many would argue that the ability to think creatively, anticipate the needs of others,  and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances are all important components.  One case study suggests that taking advantage of limited resources, connectedness, and diversity of ideas are all essential to fostering an innovative climate.  President Obama has argued that the three building blocks for innovation are education, infrastructure, and research.

In our increasingly interconnected economy it can be agreed upon, however, that innovation has taken on increased importance.  This is partly evidenced by the fact that a significant number of professionals are now focused on innovation.  No matter the ingredients, as we continue to emerge from the global recession, harnessing our collective innovative power will continue to be an important factor for economic success.

Posted by: Clark Taylor

Sources: Business Week, The Harvard Business Review, The Innovation Journal, The New York Times, The White House

Photo Credit: Longbridge Technology Park – Innovation Centre courtesy of flickr user ell brown