Dear Mr/s #nextpresident:
I write you with the hope that you will set the conditions for a more competitive, safe, and prosperous America. I have not heard you say much about what you would do for education and talent in this country, but we certainly know a few things:
- Other nations are surpassing us both in K-12 and Higher Education in terms of numbers of people attaining education levels beyond high school. Our ability to be productive and sustain economic growth is reduced every day, as other nations can create educational opportunities that match what markets and society need. In a recent report, we could see how China is investing heavily in its higher education system to produce 22C talent. I know we are in "saving mode,” but "saving on education" is the worst possible choice for any global leader.
- Our national security depends on our ability to outsmart our opponents, not outnumber them or try out-terror terrorists with an even more violent response. For that, we need to develop and deploy talent, so we are ready to engage. This is urgent, Mr/s #newpresident!
- We are witnessing with distress how you and other candidates only talk about repealing things you dislike but never discuss what you will do to get us back on track. Negating things, closing departments, etc., is all good and dandy, but it needs to be backed up by facts and viable solutions. Can you be specific about what America can do to develop talent for the 4th Industrial Revolution? Do you even know what that is? Read this WEF report discussed at the last Davos summit. It's going to be worth your time, I promise.
We are also witnessing with distress how States are reducing funding to higher education when markets are seeking individuals with higher levels of education. Students and their families are contributing with absurdly high amounts from their own pockets to compensate for the lack of public funding; I would love to hear how you intend to partner with States to address this issue. We need all systems: public, private, nonprofit, and for-profit (some are outstanding players; of course, the bad apples must go away!). The public system provides education to millions of Americans, don't disenfranchise them! This is not just social justice; this is the difference between having more productive and educated Americans and having less. And we know what happens to people without education, as they look for other avenues to make money (and rest assured, any of us, hard pressured, would find "other" ways to sustain our families). We need an advanced, modern, educated, and productive society, not the other way around.
- We have a "no-system" system. Students who take vocational training can't get their learning recognized if they want to continue their education and get higher in their career ladder. Education after high school should be interoperable at the state level and across states. Your job is not to set up systems, but to take down barriers to make interstate and intra-state agreements possible among education providers and employers, so students can learn what matters, where it matters, and be counted and portable, so they can take their credentialed learning with them, and keep adding to it as they move to their next opportunity.
- In an interoperable post-secondary learning system, you should incentivize (not DO or MANAGE, that's different; let States take care of that) the creation of digital learning passports, so students can get the skills, certifications, and degrees properly "stamped" in real-time, by verified providers (including higher education institutions, but also other relevant providers that are emerging), and open up the flow of talent in America. It's too costly for employers to find and hire people, but technology can reduce friction and enable social and geographic mobility. We have the best technology and the best entrepreneurs. Please advocate for and incentivize the creation of an interoperable post-secondary learning ecosystem with portable learning passports where both learning and demonstration of knowledge can work to the benefit of the student and worker (these are not all "kids" anymore, Mr/s #nextpresident!), not the institution or the employer. Put beneficiaries (students, job seekers) at the center, not institutions, government, or business.
- Last but not least, take education and talent seriously. Read books, inform yourself. Here's one you could read for some ideas on how to deal with talent issues in the country. If you make education a 2nd tier issue, America will not have enough people to run a 22nd Century country. And with all due respect to other nations, many of which I love, only a big goal can be indeed achieved in America. The best America can invest in is a safe, educated, and ready talent pool, so companies investing in cyber-physical solutions (think of digital + material products, like intelligent windows or smart cars) want to do it here. Those 4th industrial revolution companies need software and hardware to operate, which means all types of jobs.
Mr/s #nexpresident: make "ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution" the core issue of your tenure. And good luck!
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Susana Duarte de Suarez