July 14, 2016

Competing on Innovation: Disrupting the Education Enterprise to Build Tomorrow's Talent, Today


Today, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and workforce programs are interested in partnering with employers to increase career opportunities for students. This has taken the form of businesses playing an expanded role in advising curriculum and scaling up work-based learning opportunities such as internships and youth apprenticeships. As we aim to close the gap between what employers need and the skills youth and young adults possess, these partnerships are even more critical for preparing students for the workforce.

However, in a world where businesses increasingly compete on innovation, how well do traditional approaches prepare students to be drivers of innovation? Even in the most robust school systems, access to quality work-based learning experiences is limited to too few students. This is particularly problematic since these experiences are an important part of the career development process and can be a differentiator when pursuing employment.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) proposes a transformational approach to prepare youth to develop stronger innovation and workplace skills through real-world experiences. By placing a stronger emphasis on employer-led problem based learning at all education levels, innovation moves from the periphery to the center of the curriculum.

As part of USCCF’s Youth Employment Series, this paper examines how businesses can rebuild their talent pipelines to ensure that they will have the employees needed to drive and support innovation. It examines how employers are organizing to compete on innovation and how they can work with education partners to transform career preparation for America’s youth.

The paper begins with a review of how companies and workers compete on innovation. We then introduce what it takes to build innovation talent. From there we explore how to begin establishing business-education partnerships that can disrupt the education enterprise. Throughout the paper we highlight promising and emerging practices that demonstrate both the interest in and the viability of building innovation talent. The paper concludes with a discussion of how to scale innovation talent opportunities and the unique ability of the business community to lead the way.