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U.S. Education fails to keep up

February 10, 2014
Original Author: Bay City News Service

Courtesy of CA.Gov

Image Credit: Courtesy of CA.Gov

We're educating people to unemployability

Gavin Newsom

California Lt. Gov.

Students in the United States higher education are not being prepared to work in technology fields, according to California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. And something needs to change.

During a keynote address at the “2014 State of the Valley” conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara on Feb. 7, Newsom said that the nation’s students are suffering from a country that is failing to keep up with information technology and globalization that are changing the world.

The United States, Newsom said, “is stuck in an old system, an old mind set, that has to give way to a new system.” Newsom added that the merger of IT (information technology) and globalization is “radically changing everything, the way we work, the way we live, changing markets, changing the way we educate, and I would argue, government.”

Average is over

Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco who was elected state lieutenant governor in 2010, criticized the American education system and California’s in particular. He said the state system is too concerned with minor issues such as school class sizes and university professor seniority and tenure.

A recent study Newsom cited found that the top 15-year-old students in mathematics in the United States were performing at the equivalent of 2.5 years behind children that age in Shanghai, China.

“Average is over,” Newsom said. “You can’t continue to do what you’ve done and get what you got. It’s not as if we are collapsing. The world is rising. It’s the rise of the rest. It’s no more dealing with cheap labor, but cheap genius.”

Newsom said that a senior vice president for the search engine giant Google told him that he could not “care less” about traditional colleges and that “‘GPAs are useless. Fourteen percent of the folk on some of our critical teams never went to college.’”

“Higher education, give me a break,” Newsom said. “We’re educating people to unemployability.”

Newsom compared university leaders in California to board members of the now-defunct film camera company Kodak, who used to assume the company would do well indefinitely.

“Just like Kodak, right?” Newsom said. “‘We’re doing fine.’ Meanwhile we are educating people who have no real skills that are relevant to the world they’re entered into, into this hyper-connected world.”

“Remember those days of high wage, middle skills? That’s what bolstered up our middle class. Those days are over,” Newsom said. “You know that. I mean a college degree is like a high school degree now. Big damn deal. It’s a must, but it’s just the beginning.”

A new approach is needed

Newsom cited as a positive example the San Francisco firm General Assembly, which offers certification classes in specific tech fields such as software engineering and web design for jobs with Silicon Valley tech businesses.

Companies with tech field certification programs like General Assembly “are popping up everywhere” and placing more of their students into jobs “because we ain’t conveying the talent from San Jose State and all of these other universities,” Newsom said.

Newsom said that the state is not getting students trained in the skills necessary to compete with today’s business demands. “There is complete disconnect between the business community and higher education,” he said.

“I love the U.C. system. I want it to thrive. But we’re playing on the margins. We’ve got to be more efficient,” he said.

The annual event, sponsored by non-profit groups Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, features guest speakers on the status of the technology economy of Silicon Valley, which the two groups define as all of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, Fremont, Union City and Newark in Alameda County and Scotts Valley in Santa Cruz County.