“In a dynamic world, there is no single way to approach an issue, and we must learn from one another in the process of trying to move the debate forward.” – Margaret Spellings, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The Business Horizon Quarterly (BHQ) is the Forum for Innovation's signature publication. Its purpose is to share informed insights on emerging issues facing the American business community. By asking questions like “what is growth?” and “what is innovation?”, the Forum aims to inform and to spur debate.
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American manufacturing needs a national strategy. It once had one—more than 200 years ago. The architect was Alexander Hamilton, among the most foresighted of the Founding Fathers. The world of 2012 is dramatically different from that of 1791, and yet Hamilton’s words are eerily reflective of the current evolution of public opinion: “The expediency of encouraging manufactures in the United States,” he told Congress in his Report on Manufactures, “which was not long since deemed very questionable, appears at this time to be pretty generally admitted.”
That statement is as true in the early 21st century as it was in the late 18th century. A sector that was ignored by policymakers or even mistakenly given up for dead a decade ago is now viewed as key to our country’s economic survival. After all, among other things, manufacturers generate more economic activity across society, invest more in research and development (R&D) and innovation, and export more than any other sector.
We recently survived another campaign season in which we saw rigorous battles for President, Congress, Senate, and state legislative races across the country. Record money was spent, the ads were negative, and tensions between both parties remain at epic levels. I will leave it up to the pundits to dissect the political ramifications coming out of this election, but at the end of the day these leaders have a job to do. The time for rhetoric is over, especially when it comes to establishing important public policy to solve the skills gap and crafting a workforce development strategy that keeps the United States competitive in the global marketplace.
I have participated in numerous forums, symposiums, panel events, conferences, and roundtables focused on solving the workforce skills gap. This is not a new issue. Those of us in business have a pretty good handle on what needs to be done when it comes to the challenges facing workforce development. Friends, this isn’t rocket science. If our leaders in Washington are serious about putting people back to work, having America’s educational system placed at the front of the class, and building a growing economy for generations to come, there are some simple things we can implement right away to solve the skills gap and develop a strong foundation for today’s workforce and generations to come.
Buy-In From Our Educational Institutions:
For decades, America’s entrepreneurs have led the way in cultivating many of the innovative ideas that have fueled our economy and changed the world in countless ways. That leadership role is now being challenged in new and inventive ways from an increasing number of competitors. If our country is to remain at the forefront of the world economy, we will need a long-term and dynamic strategy for fostering entrepreneurship in America. As young entrepreneurs, we have a unique insight into what our country’s plan should include, addressing the challenges we have already encountered and observed in our own entrepreneurial careers.
We are graduates of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), a year-long program that teaches young people how to develop bright ideas, build business plans and secure investor capital. There is a growing number of YEA! programs and graduates across the country, and many of us have launched companies, earned business degrees from top U.S. schools, and gone on to pursue entrepreneurial careers.
NCF: What were some of the lessons you took from your first job?
Gayle Jagel: When I was about 8 years old, I noticed that my neighbor had some beautiful tomatoes growing in her garden, but she didn’t seem to be picking them or eating them. It seemed to me that it would be a shame for all of those tomatoes to go to waste. So I picked the tomatoes and put them into my wagon, which I then pulled around my neighborhood, selling the tomatoes to everyone on my street.
My mother, who knew that we did not even have a garden, let alone one in which lovely tomatoes were growing, was a bit less pleased. She reminded me the tomatoes were not mine to sell, that they belonged to my neighbor, and that she expected me to make it right. So I swallowed my embarrassment and went to my customers/neighbors, returning their money in exchange for the “hot” tomatoes.
Through this, I learned more than a lesson about not stealing and accountability. I also realized that I was good at seeing and taking advantage of opportunities. I also learned that the best way to deal with a problem is directly, immediately, and to make it right with anyone who was wronged.
NCF: Which entrepreneur/innovator inspires you most?