GETTING TO THE GOAL: INNOVATE
The Louisiana Talent Imperative recognizes the centrality of innovation to catalyze and drive the talent development system our state needs. Building innovation ecosystems throughout the state, to allow creative ideas to be shared, advanced, and brought into use, is critical to establishing a Prosperity Pipeline. Innovation in this context encompasses three essential components: new and novel approaches to the way education is delivered, methods to measure the success of educational strategies and adapt them based on performance, and continuing to embrace the power and reach of research universities and special purpose institutions in advancing knowledge and new ideas. Building the Prosperity Pipeline to engage all of the state’s talent requires that Louisiana transition from a siloed, linear approach to education to one that creatively blurs the boundaries between PK-12, postsecondary education and business and industry. Therefore, work-based learning must become an integral part of the state’s talent development system. A continuum of experiential learning, apprenticeships, job shadowing, internships, and cooperative education from middle to high schools blends worksite and classroom learning, helping students connect theory to practice, and in particular allowing students to learn by doing. Innovative curricula and education delivery models that weave together learning and work – immersion programs, near-completion specializations, education programs integrated into the work environment – can also help students to understand the relationship of learning to work and being fully prepared to enter the workforce. Finally, in addition to the practical benefits of the experience, if this blended education allows the student to earn postsecondary credits, it can accelerate both time-to-degree and post- graduation wages.
Louisiana’s Talent Imperative demands the state expand apprenticeships in high-need fields like information technology, cybersecurity, health care, and advanced manufacturing. Linking education and work explicitly will not only help students in connecting the relevance of their education to employment, it will also forge stronger and more meaningful partnerships between PK-12, postsecondary education, and Louisiana’s private sector.
Higher education must also recognize that beyond students’ technical knowledge and abilities, employers are increasingly seeking soft skills – interpersonal relations, communication, judgment, and ethical problem-solving – that must be part of any curriculum. The IBM Institute for Business Value’s Global Skills Study noted that the technology of work is changing so fast that executives are now more focused on the soft skills of job candidates: a willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change. Curricula and foundational courses should deliberately prepare students for this aspect of employment, to make them as competitive as possible in the rapidly evolving technology-centered workforce.