Businesses are the vehicles of economic development and prosperity for all. Through their products and services, businesses ensure the primary function of the economy, which is to address the material needs of people, can be accomplished. In selling their wares, and providing jobs, they also help circulate wealth throughout the economy, thereby promoting economic stability, security, and growth. The private sector can fuel economic growth by creating new opportunities and fostering greater productivity via incentivizing wages as well as a culture of appreciation. They can also help by better utilizing the talents, skills, and education of their employees.
Due to globalization and advancing technology, there is a need for a far more dynamic workforce with the capacity to acquire massive amounts of data and use that information to develop novel solutions. Unfortunately, it takes a great amount of time and effort for most people to fully absorb new information and develop new skills. This is particularly true for individuals educated to simply memorize and regurgitate lessons. Since the modern world is constantly generating new knowledge, while new advancements quickly outdate skills, this old fashion model is insufficient. As such, the education system needs to provide students with broader, flexible skill sets that enable them to learn more efficiently and effectively throughout the rest of their lives as additional schooling is not always a viable or advantageous option.
The ultimate objective of education is to imbue students with a broad knowledge base and set of skills, so they can succeed in an ever changing world. As such, formal education should focus on teaching students how to learn independently versus overly tailoring their education with rigid curricula designed to teach certain bits of knowledge. Unfortunately, employers too often seek hires with specialized degrees and training to fulfill specific positions. As a consequence, the skills of educated employees are often underutilized by employers. More importantly, hiring practices, which fail to reward individuals with dynamic, broad-base skill sets, starve businesses and industries of the talents they need to survive and thrive.
Innovation and inventive thinking depend greatly upon the ability of employees, as well as employers, to recognize what problems exist and what solutions may work. Only when an individual has a broad perception of an application and understanding of the function of each element of a problem can he or she consider alternative solutions. Drawing on solutions from outside applications is also a powerful way of innovating. When students pursue advanced degrees, they learn how to learn in a specific field of interest for this reason. As they specialize in subfields, they need to develop specialized learning tools to investigate a broad cross-section of specific applications. In doing so, they are also inventing novel techniques that can be applied to broader applications.
In the various fields of engineering, many of the tools are derived from research in fields like physics while all sciences rely heavily on the field of mathematics for specific analytical techniques. At the same time, business, advertising, and economics utilize the tools created by all these fields, probably without understanding how the tools were developed or originally applied, to improve their operations. It is, however, only when someone in a field facing a specific application is aware of techniques developed in another field that can they utilize them. Today, the beneficiaries of outside tools are starving themselves of future opportunities by failing to seek out and invite individuals with these backgrounds into their industries.
Unfortunately, pure science degrees, as well as dynamic curricula at all levels, are valued less by markets than "technician" degrees with narrowly tailored applications of complex concepts. Academics, however, can help solve this problem by primarily focusing on educating students to draw on their experiences to solve novel problems. Meanwhile, it is also imperative for educators to design their curricula to encourage students to seek out opportunities to learn beyond formal education as their education provides them with the tools they need to learn instead of what they should learn.
Although employers generally fail to utilize the broad spectrum of skill sets their employees amass, there are certain basic skills that can help employees prepare for the future and perform better. For example, business math courses try to tailor a student's understanding of math and accounting to a specific application; whereas, accounting, statistics, and computer literacy courses can provide students with a deeper, broader understanding of the subjects. In turn, those skills can be applied to a myriad of applications beyond the usefulness of business math courses. Any business from a small grocery store to an industrial corporation can take advantage of the critical thinking skills such a background instills to improve their operations. Businesses can help by hiring people with such backgrounds.
Furthermore, private industry and education schools are part of the solution when it comes to building the dynamic workforce needed to create new opportunities and foster economic development. Although individuals with specialties are necessary when it comes to highly technical applications, those individuals still need a broad background and full comprehension of the concepts in their field so they can be flexible, efficient employees. By focusing on “learning how to learn” and acquiring broad skill sets, which can be applied to novel applications or used to improve an already existing application, instead of training students for jobs, educational institutions can also do a lot more to produce a far more desirable workforce for the present and the future.
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