U.S. Chamber Foundation Encourages Building “Innovation Talent” in Schools

July 21, 2016

New White Paper Recommends Business-Sponsored Challenges to Disrupt Education Enterprise, Close Skills Gap

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) today released a white paper proposing a new approach to preparing youth for the modern workplace through business-sponsored innovation challenges in classrooms.

The paper, titled, “Competing on Innovation: Disrupting the Education Enterprise to Build Tomorrow’s Talent, Today,” explores how businesses can build their talent pipelines through real world, business-developed classroom challenges to ensure their future employees are equipped with the skills necessary to support innovation.

“America will increasingly need to innovate if it is to maintain its position as a global economic leader,” said Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president of the USCCF Center for Education and Workforce. “Innovation isn’t something reserved just for upper-level management; it is now embedded in the basic fabric of the modern workplace at every level. As outlined in this white paper, employers help prepare students for the modern workplace by developing challenges that require solutions to real world business problems.”

Acknowledging that today’s workforce requires individuals to work as members of diverse teams and across job functions to think critically, solve problems, and inspire solutions, this paper proposes better preparing students for careers by moving innovation to the center of classroom curriculum, implementing innovation challenges that reflect the modern organization of work rather than the traditional, work-based learning opportunities developed for the workforce of the past.

Innovation challenges are unique in the following ways:

  • They represent a real world problem for a company or industry.
  • They are student-centered and team-based so students across disciplines can collaborate on a solution.
  • They require business partners to play a supporting role as mentors and teachers.

“In an environment where career readiness and preparation are increasingly a priority, innovation challenges directly connect students to the world of work,” said Oldham. “Students will benefit by having a more engaging curriculum where they can apply their teamwork and critical thinking skills to problems with stakeholders interested in their ideas, approaches, and solutions.”

The report is the latest work of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s broader youth employment initiative, which is focused on closing the skills gap by providing customized tactics for the private sector to develop young talent as part of its overall business strategy.

The full report is available online here. For more information, please visit www.YouthEmploymentWorks.org.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness. We educate the public on the conditions necessary for business and communities to thrive, how business positively impacts communities, and emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.