ICIC Summit Live: Education's Role in Industrial 2.0

Being the act after Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School can be daunting, but the leaders on the “Lessons from Industrial Cities” panel were up to the task. With incisive lessons and case studies, they shared how their cities were applying Dr. Porter’s research on clusters.

Building upon yesterday’s panel on public-private partnerships, they engaged in the crucial sharing of ideas and strategies that the Urban 2.0 Conference seeks to foster. Not surprisingly, much of the discussion about "Industrial 2.0 - Rethink, Repurpose, Retrain" leaned toward Retrain, and the role of education in sustaining our industrial economy.

What struck me as most interesting was how the cluster approach has provided a cohesive framework for so many individual, postindustrial cities.

For example, John Stafford, who works closely with Indiana and Purdue University from Fort Wayne, Indiana, emphasized the role of education in growing the once-thriving manufacturing industry. He lays blame on the public sector for its failure to educate the workforce for the jobs of tomorrow. He explained: “Young people do not understand the opportunities that are out there in manufacturing” and went on explain how his city addressed the problem.

Making sure that rural and urban communities were partners rather than adversaries, 6 new high tech schools were built to encourage students to become leaders in tomorrow’s manufacturing world. Far from a traditional vocational school, the schools’ use of new academic models has proven successful in bridging the gap between jobs and needed skills.

The role that education must play to bring back crucial manufacturing jobs to America was voiced by almost every participant. Dan Swinney of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council critically pointed out that “14 million people are unemployed and there are 13 million jobs unfilled in Chicago – many of them high-skilled” and further noted that “In 2001, not one guidance counselor in the Chicago public school system would refer a kid to a manufacturing job.” To reconcile the needs of industry with those of education, he spearheaded the creation of novel technology high schools where students could gain both skills and certifications crucial to gaining jobs in manufacturing.

In an auditorium full of leaders, the panel provided inspirational templates for urban revitalization that the myriad leaders in the room will be sure to take back to their communities.




BY Sathya Vijayakumar on October 4th, 2011

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