When Gavin Newsom visited San Jose State one year ago, he discussed how public universities must evolve. His March 28 visit was much the same.
As the keynote speaker at a King Library luncheon organized by the Committee for Economic Development (CED), a nonprofit, nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., the lieutenant governor told business and education leaders that California’s public university systems are “selling an industrial version of education in a communications age.”
Citing unemployment rates as high as 25 percent in Colusa County, in comparison with seven percent in Santa Clara County, Newsom urged both systems to develop “action plans” addressing “this Gatsby Curve that now exists quite acutely.”
What used to be a moral thing to do,” CED Executive Vice President Michael Petro said of public education, “is now an economic imperative.”
Investing in Education
The Committee for Economic Development hosted the event to discuss its recent report, “Boosting California’s Postsecondary Education Performance.” The study focuses on “broad-access” institutions, “where the vast majority of the workers will be educated,” Petro said.
During a panel discussion, Elaine Chin, dean of the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, noted “decades of dis-investment,” have eroded efforts to make good on philosopher John Dewey’s vision:
“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children.”
An Inflection Point
Jay Banfield, founding executive director of Year Up, agreed that the country had hit an inflection point, where “companies are struggling to find talent” yet “talented young people are struggling to find opportunities.”
This connected to a question from moderator Lenny Mendonca, director emeritus of McKinsey & Company and a CED trustee to ask: What do CEOs look for when hiring?
“The ability to switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, the ability to change, and the ability to participate in a team,” said David F. Welch, co-founder and president of Infinera.
They need to have the perspective that it’s going to be a wild ride,” Welch added, “so accept it.”