University Continuing Education Association
January 12, 2007
Thank you. It is an honor to join so many leaders from all across higher education at
this event. You represent an indispensable resource to our nation and our economy and
it gives me great pleasure to see so many of you here today.
The importance of higher education has been magnified by the incredible changes
happening in the economy. The United States used to be the unquestioned leader in all
aspects of the world economy. Our own successes – the airplane, the computer, the
internet – now make it easier for others to compete with us. We’ve made the world a
smaller place, and in so doing have created global competitors we never before had to
We, of course, welcome these competitors into the global economy. Through a broad
commitment to free trade among nations, we have opened opportunity to billions of
people and spurred tremendous growth in the world economy. The simultaneous
advances in technology have made a truly integrated global economy possible.
To offer just one example of this, last week I read a story about the creation of Boeing’s
newest design and manufacturing marvel, the 787 Dreamliner. The plane is
manufactured separately in Kansas, South Carolina, Japan, and Italy and then brought
by sea, air, and land to their plant in Seattle for assembly. They have perfected the
process to where assembly of the plane takes only 3 days. Only some extremely
advanced logistics enabled by technology and dependable trade makes this possible.
This globally integrated supply chain, along with innovations in material science and
aerodynamics, has allowed Boeing to leap-frog their competitors from across the pond
and book hundreds of new orders for the plane. This, of course, creates thousands of
highly skilled and highly paid jobs in Kansas, South Carolina, and Washington.
What Boeing and others have discovered is that United States companies, whether they
are manufacturers or service providers, can compete and succeed in the global economy
by focusing on innovation. Routinized, low skill jobs may be done anywhere in the
world, but only a free and open society with educated and skilled individuals can drive
innovation, constantly creating new high wage, high skill jobs.
The projections for the U.S. economy confirm this fact. 90 percent of the fastest growing
jobs and 63 percent of all new jobs will require a post secondary education. A closer
look at the numbers reveals that three-quarters of those fastest growing jobs require not
just post-secondary education, but a college degree. And two-thirds of the high-wage, high-growth jobs will require a full Bachelor’s Degree.
It does not require looking at projections though to understand the importance of education in today’s economy. Figures from last year show that individuals with a 4-
year college degree have half the unemployment rate and earn nearly double the wages of workers with only a high school education.
th century. Both manufacturing and This is, of course, a dramatic shift from the 20
service industries used to offer Americans with a high school diploma strong, secure jobs with wages enough to raise a family, own a home, and save for retirement. That is simply no longer the case.
The need for higher education alone places our colleges and universities at the forefront of the economy. Today’s youth look to you to equip them with the education and skills to compete and succeed in the innovation economy. That has always been the mission of higher education and your world-class performance is responsible for our leadership in the world economy today.
But to maintain that leadership is going to require all of us to do more. One of the consequences of free trade and a global economy is that many adults that depended on lower skill jobs for a living have seen those jobs, and indeed entire industries, disappear. They must now learn new skills if they are going to succeed in this new economy.
Training adults has traditionally been the mission of my agency, the Employment & Training Administration. But that mission has become clouded by a system that now exists to perpetuate itself.
This system was created back in 1933 as one of the many New Deal programs, and, in too many areas, it still reflects its roots as a social services program. For example, the process of helping an individual is still more important than the results of our services. This is evident from the language of the law, which describes in painstaking detail how and in what order services should be delivered.
This situation leads rather naturally to a system where employers are regarded merely as the end of the process rather than customers or even partners. This mentality must be overcome if the public’s investment in talent development has any chance of
showing a positive return.
The Administration has moved to reform the system by creating a series of initiatives designed to engage both employers and education institutions. The first is the High Growth Job Training Initiative. By partnering with employers and engaging
educational institutions, the High Growth Initiative hopes to demonstrate to our system how to put employers back in charge of talent development.
Through the High Growth Initiative we recognized that many of the job opportunities
st century economy are begun with an associate’s degree and the available in the 21
President created a similar but new initiative called Community-Based Job Training Grants.
These grants, which we call the Community College Initiative, are designed to improve the training available at community colleges by connecting employers with the schools to provide more and better teachers, state of the art equipment, and a greater capacity to teach more students. In short, they will improve the ability of our Community Colleges to develop talent.
While Community Colleges play an important role in educating our adult population, they are not alone. This association represents the commitment of our nation’s four
year institutions to the continuing education of adults. As your admission figures no doubt reflect, a growing percentage of college and university students are not traditional 18-to-24 year olds. They are adults, sometimes seeking a degree but other times only a class or two to upgrade their skills. This percentage is going to continue to increase as lifelong learning and importance of continuous skill development grow.
Designing courses and curricula to reach this audience is critical, both to your bottom lines in an ever-tightening budget environment and to the state’s and region’s economy,
which depend on a skilled workforce for growth. Indeed, talent development has never been as important to economic development as it is right now.
For most of its existence, economic development has been synonymous with infrastructure development like buildings and roads and incentives like tax rebates and credits. But globalization has changed the economic development equation.
Today, economic development also includes access to broadband and the technological infrastructure to support innovation. But the single most important factor companies consider when deciding where to open or expand a business is the availability of skilled labor. If the workforce is not present to produce high value goods or deliver just-in-time services, then all the tax breaks and highway extensions are irrelevant. This creates an opportunity for talent development organizations to not simply respond to economic events, but anticipate and even shape a regional economy.
It was this realization that led the Employment and Training Administration to create Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development, our WIRED Initiative. WIRED is built on the belief that the critical geography in today’s economy is not towns
or states but regions, and that an integrated economic and talent development strategy
at the regional level can drive transformation.
We have invested in 26 regions around the country as a part of WIRED and are asking
each region to participate in a 5-step process. Briefly, those steps are to:
1. Define the regional economy by identifying the surrounding communities
that share a common characteristics;
2. Create a leadership group that represents the major assets in the region;
3. Conduct a regional assessment to fully map the area’s assets and identifies
the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks;
4. Develop an economic strategy and corresponding implementation plan that
identifies specific goals and tasks; and
5. Identify resources from a wide range of public and private sources to support
This is not linear process, but a cycle where different industries require different
regional definitions and different assets. And it requires a strong leadership group,
constantly challenging traditional systems and structures to change and putting their
own “skin in the game”.
I believe that colleges and universities have two unique characteristics that can add
tremendous value to this process.
First is your innovation capacity. During this WIRED Initiative, I learned about
something called the Innovation Lifecycle. The four main stages of this process are
knowledge creation, technology transfer, commercialization, and clusters and networks.
In the past, the first two stages of this lifecycle were the province of big companies like
GE, Westinghouse, and AT&T. Today, it is universities. When you look at the hot-
spots in today’s economy, Silicon Valley, Research Triangle Park, Boston, they all have
one major thing in common; several major universities driving the innovations that are
creating tremendous growth.
Other regions from around country have seen the success of these examples and are
now looking to their colleges and universities to provide similar benefits. Independent
researchers are taking note too. I recently participated in the Milken Institute’s study of
technology transfer capabilities around the life sciences sector. It was clear from their
study that broad university commitment to technology transfer and economic
development, not just patent acquisition, leads to greater benefits to the university and
to the business community that grows around it. The report was called Mind-to-Market
and that really is a perfect way to describe what the Innovation LifeCycle represents.
While the engineers and computer guys are creating these new technologies and new
ideas, the leadership of colleges and universities can play an equally important role in
this WIRED conceptual framework. Quite simply, you can be leaders.
Colleges and universities are often seen as already representing a region. They rarely
participate in political struggles and they command a certain respect that can bring
other regional leaders to the table. This role of honest broker is often one of the hardest
to find particularly when we are accustomed to be suspicious of one’s motives. Think
of it as the “are-they-after-my-money” syndrome.
There are two great examples from our WIRED regions where universities play this role.
In Mid-Michigan, where the cities of Flint, Lansing, and Saginaw have been century-old
rivals for General Motors jobs, Michigan State University brought leaders from these
three rivals together around a common economic vision. They know their economic
fates are linked and are now working together to restore jobs and growth to that
Just south of there, Purdue University has taken on a similar role for North Central
Indiana. Long the home auto parts suppliers and amber waves of grain, today,
Purdue’s Center for Regional Development hopes to launch the newest innovations in
Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced Materials, and Agribusiness. Their role as leader
led naturally from their role as innovator.
Of course, colleges and universities still can play a critical role in a region beyond leader
and innovator. Montana State University has established a training program to provide
the technicians and engineers needed for a new bio-diesel and bio-lubricant economy;
UMKC has been driving force in the biotechnology and animal health strategies of
Greater Kansas City; and private institutions like the University of Rochester and RIT
have partnered with the Finger Lakes region to develop the next generation of imaging
and photonics technology, along with the workforce to support it.
While individual regions seek to engage their area colleges and universities, we at the
national level have established a relationship with the National Association of State
Universities and Land Grant Colleges. Some of the activities that we are looking to
partner on include:
? Connecting research and development and technology transfer efforts to venture
capitalists and other regional assets to support business creation;
? Developing and expanding the availability of business incubators;
? Increasing entrepreneurship training and mentoring;
? Defining the role of colleges and universities in the serving the continuing
education needs of adults;
? Improving economic data collection and analysis for regional economies;
? Conducting asset mapping for regions; and
? Providing leadership and being a catalyst for strategic partnerships in regional
These are some the exact actions that I articulated earlier and I am thrilled that
NASULGC and the colleges and universities that they represent are interested in these
It is an exciting time to be a part of high education and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
to reshape the role of your institutions. I am happy that so many of you are
participating in this organization and are here today.
Thank you very much more for the opportunity to speak today I’d be happy to answer
any questions that you may have.