Oh, the places you’ll go
Dr. Seuss’ whimsical lyrics and bold characters hold enduring appeal. They capture the imagination while offering life lessons to generations of children. In so doing, his books support reading proficiency, the foundation for lifelong learning and career success.
Our economy today favors “knowledge jobs” that demand high literacy skills. Nearly two-thirds of all new jobs in the United States require some post-secondary education. A growing portion of jobs require advanced learning, including the ability to identify, evaluate, and synthesize relevant information and use higher-level thinking strategies to solve problems.
Knowledge workers deliver competitive advantage
As business management expert Peter Drucker wrote as far back as 1999, if most jobs require knowledge and skills, “the central challenge is no longer to make manual work more productive-after all, we know how to do it. The central challenge will be to make knowledge workers more productive.”
Information is what makes knowledge workers more productive. With all the data and information hurtling our way, it’s the knowledge worker who assesses what data are useful, analyzes what the data tell us, and determine how to apply the data to rapidly innovate and improve products, services, and processes.
This is true not only within knowledge-intensive industries like drug research or software development, but in all sectors of the economy. Retail buyers leverage customer data to optimize inventory planning. In advanced manufacturing, engineers deploy data to increase quality and yield in production processes and to cut costs. Final products may be embedded with technologies to enable the predictive maintenance of machinery. Information collected in real time from the factory floor allows logistics experts to fine-tune the supply chain.
The knowledge worker as a capital asset
Drucker was writing advice for business managers: knowledge workers are a more crucial asset in today’s economy than physical or financial assets. Nurture and grow them appropriately to your competitive advantage.
Knowledge is a strong asset because it’s a resource that cannot be depleted. Quite the opposite, we accrue knowledge faster than we can process. Information and communication technologies enable us to access and offer knowledge anywhere in the world, stimulating greater demand for knowledge-based services through international trade.
Talent development in the knowledge economy
Indicative of the structural shift in our workforce, knowledge work occupations have been adding jobs faster than any other – about 1.9 million per year.
This shift has implications for education and workforce development approaches in advanced and emerging economies alike. Preparing workers to thrive in the knowledge economy requires, among other things, that we graduate more scientists and engineers, increase the population that successfully matriculates from tertiary education, expand broadband penetration for improved access to educational resources, and support life-long learning so that knowledge workers adapt and continually acquire new competencies.
Dr. Seuss’ knowledge workers
Dr. Seuss wanted kids to enjoy learning. He must have known this would position them for success in the modern knowledge economy where working and learning are both synonymous and complementary. Knowledge grows exponentially as you use it and share it.
Where does it all begin? With teaching our kids to read well.
By focusing on better preparing youth for employment in the knowledge economy, we can address long-term labor market shortfalls, improve lifetime earning potential, and contribute significantly to national productivity and global competitiveness.
To borrow from Dr. Seuss: Will we succeed? Yes, we will indeed. (98 and 3/4% guaranteed.)
Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. She is a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an adjunct fellow with CSIS. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught International Trade for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.