Dec 252015
Skilled workers are essential to building industries

The role of higher education is changing in the face of technological and economic change as this World Economic Forum article describes.

Education is one of the keys to staying competitive in an increasingly technology driven society on both a personal and societal level. Individuals and nations that neglect their education investment risk are left behind.

One of the starkest examples of this are America’s lower middle class and the rise of Donald Trump.

In an article for The Atlantic, former George W. Bush adviser David Frum, describes how economic uncertainty for America’s relatively unskilled workforce are pushing back against their falling living standards.

The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans. Middle-class and middle-aged; not rich and not poor; people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English, and who wonder how white male became an accusation rather than a description.

You can measure their pessimism in polls that ask about their expectations for their lives—and for those of their children. On both counts, whites without a college degree express the bleakest view. You can see the effects of their despair in the new statistics describing horrifying rates of suicide and substance-abuse fatality among this same group, in middle age.

That these people are supporting Donald Trump – and their counterparts in almost every Western democracy – is not surprising as they losing in the new economic order and the technological changes which are eliminating or devaluing their jobs.

For governments and communities, the question is how to restore these folks’ fortunes or at least maintain their living standards. With protectionism almost certainly guaranteed to fail, the obvious answer is to give these workers the skills to compete and contribute in the 21st century economy.

Sadly, most Western governments still locked in a 1980s Reagan/Thatcherite mindset see education as a cost to be reduced rather than an investment in both their communities’ collective wealth and society’s cohesion.

Education, like the rest of society, is changing. A rethinking of both how it is delivered and its role is essential for nations to be successful in today’s economy.

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