The Tech Industry Isn’t Waiting for Education to Change: They’re Changing Education Themselves

01/10/2018 02:09 am ET

The demand for new thinking skills to serve the new knowledge based economy has become critical, and while K-12 and some universities are looking at what teachers teach and how students learn to assess their readiness, the education system is still too far behind for most high-tech companies.

For many years, H-1B visas, allowing corporations to seek the best and brightest from around the world, outsourcing and off-shoring alleviated the problem of getting the workers companies needed. But time is not on their side.

In the wake of globalization and the spread of technology, the demand has gotten more acute. Now, with the sophistication of artificial intelligence and robotics, the need for creative and innovative employees has dramatically heightened.

Indeed, a recent study by Oxford Research reported in the MIT Technology Review, we are witnessing “Tectonic Shifts in Employment (where) information technology is reducing the need for certain jobs faster than new ones are being created.” They found that “nearly half of all jobs are vulnerable to machines—to applications using information technology.”

It was predicted that over 43% percent of the jobs that exist today will be gone—forever—over the next 20 years.

Yet, according to the U.S Department of Education, most of the new jobs will require some college. For the university or college, the big question is what to teach or more precisely, what do our students need to know? What are these “new skills” that will be so in demand?

Last month, The New York Times reported that “Oracle is putting the finishing touches on a $43 million building that will house the Design Tech High School, an existing charter school ...where students can create product prototypes. It has nooks in the hallways to foster student collaboration.”

While Oracle, like most companies offering money or other hands on support say there are no strings attached, students at Design Tech High represent exactly the kind of employee companies are saying they need.

Long ago, Intel created the Mentoring and Planning Services (“MAP”) program “to mentor, guide and offer technical advice to schools offering STEM education.” as well assist non-profit organizations in the area. INTEL also supported the launch of US News’s STEM Seminars attracting hundreds of thousands of businesses and school leaders.

Google has donated $50 million or more as well as technical expertise to organizations that are tackling this challenge in “three ways: getting students the right learning materials, giving teachers the latest skills and techniques, and making learning possible outside of classroom.” And Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to do much the same.

Marc Benioff, of Salesforce has pledged his non-profit will give 100 million to San Francisco Unified over the next decade, and started with $100,000 of his own money for “innovation grants” to schools to act “like start-up founders and less like bureaucrats.” Many companies have adopted similar programs and pledged funding too.

These efforts by industry represents a tremendous breakthrough for the U.S. and other nations struggling to redefine and transform education at every level.

More than a decade ago, The Conference Board, a major international business research organization, issued a report called “Ready To Innovate: Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce?”

The report was the first time that the vital link to a creative and innovative economy was made clear, and the road to America’s success and survival was spelled out for all to see — particularly in the business community.

In the last few years, high tech companies, although not high tech alone, has looked for workers with creativity and innovation, the new thinking skills they say they need for a very different economy.

They have found it makes business sense to get involved and help those educators willing to turn education upside down if necessary.

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