Innovation: An Edge America Cannot Surrender

“We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.  This is an edge America cannot surrender. “ – President Barack Obama, State of the Union, 2014

In order to go all-in on innovation, we must start by equipping our students with the critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills necessary to become the next generation of innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs. The President is right. This is an edge America cannot surrender. But it doesn’t start with adults already in the workforce. It starts in our nation’s classrooms.

The President mentioned “high schools that are partnering with colleges and employers to offer real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to jobs and careers.” These are PLTW schools. They are schools that have put STEM education and career academies at their core, committing to world-class, integrated, project-based learning. They are schools that work with PLTW’s engaged network of over 50 institutions of higher education and research partners to take part in high-quality teacher training and open students up to opportunities like preferred admission and college credit. And high schools that have opportunities to engage their students with dozens of corporations, non-profits, and businesses that give PLTW students real-world experiences such as internships and mentoring.

One example is PLTW’s partnership with Toyota. PLTW alumni who graduate high school with desirable critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills are in demand for the company’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) training program. They participate in community college courses two days per week, and spend the other three days each week in Toyota’s manufacturing facilities learning advanced manufacturing skills. Upon completion of the AMT program, PLTW alumni are hired by Toyota to work in full-time, well-paying manufacturing jobs. It is why companies like Chevron, Lockheed Martin, General Motors, Cargill, SunPower, Bemis, Autodesk, 3M, Amgen, Pentair, John Deere and many others are making investments in Project Lead The Way. It is also why Change the Equation recognized PLTW as one of only four high-quality STEM programs ready to be scaled nationally. PLTW is working for students, and it is working for America.

America’s future and our economic competitiveness depend on our students. They are the inventors, entrepreneurs, and critical thinkers of tomorrow, and we cannot afford to give them anything but the best.