Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where the smart people are

When Intel's Howard High says, "We go where the smart people are," and predicts that the majority of his company's jobs will move overseas in the next decade, you know there's a major shift underway.

Some say, "Just let the market take care of it. The law of supply and demand will bring everything into equilibrium, eventually." I've been known to talk this way, myself.

But sometimes, the market is part of the problem, not the solution.

Jobs are moving from North America to Asia and India because businesses make rational decisions, despite all the job creation programs and tax incentives that politicians can dream up.

Until recently, the impact of jobs moving offshore was mostly felt by wage earners at the bottom of the pay scale, and elites could turn a blind eye. Now the high value, specialized, jobs are following the low skill manufacturing and call centre jobs, because those countries are now competing on brains as well as wage levels.

It is slowly dawning that the success of North American companies no longer ensures job growth here at home. In fact, the reverse is now true, as the smartest businesses will move engineering and design functions, as well as assembly line jobs, out of North America in order to be more profitable and grow.

Foreign students, raised in a culture of academic achievement, are winning the international jobs competition. They study hard and are driven to excel. It's expected by their parents, who often deprive themselves to send their kids to the top Canadian and American universities. They are the kind of thinkers needed by companies to create the next generation of products, and now they are returning home rather than staying here after graduation.

Our self-absorbed, homegrown kids, mollycoddled by parents and teachers in an era that prizes self esteem and popularity more than effort and accomplishment, are losing the contest. That means our economies are falling behind those of hard chargers like China, India, Korea, and Singapore.

As sure as night follows day, their standards of living will rise as ours decline.

What can we do?

There is no quick fix, but education is at the heart of it. Governments, educators, and parents must get back to recognizing and encouraging academic achievement, investing in education, setting high national standards, and ensuring that all students from kindergarten to grad school understand that life is a competition.

And as we enter a period of deficit reduction, this is one area we must not short change.

1 comment:

  1. A timely warning to us all.

    In my opinion the children are the least important item on the long list of concerns by many Cdn Boards of Education. It often seems to be a game of which Board can boast the newest initiative.