Economic growth is tied to population growth and workforce participation. Simply, the economy grows when the workforce grows.
When it comes to increasing the number of workers, making babies is the easiest way to do that. In developed countries, which is a tall order. Typically speaking, the more developed a country is, the lower its birthrate falls.
There has been much hand-wringing about the declining US birth rate. The fewer workers you have, the less work they can do. Less work means less output. Less output means lower profits. Lower profits mean that is someone is not getting a mega-yacht.
You can also increase the number of workers through immigration. People who live in countries with declining birth rates and who also want economic growth but do not want immigration either do not really want economic growth or do not understand the cozy relationship between the size of a country’s workforce and its economic output. (Just saying…)
You can increase the number of workers by increasing workforce participation. This works if you have people who are not working, or who are not working to their potential. Enter higher education. Providing people with narrowly tailored training will not increase your workforce participation as much (or as effectively) as substantive education will. High quality education that enables workers to self-teach or recognize technological shifts will ensure that they remain employed, even when workforce conditions change.
This strategy also involves activating less active or inactive participants. To be effective, it may require removing barriers to full participation. Removing barriers could mean providing childcare, financial aid, tutoring, transportation assistance, and other services that can help students remain in school.
Economic growth requires continued investment
When you cannot increase the number of workers, but you still want economic growth, you can improve the output of the workers you have by increasing efficiency. This also involves education. It is the “Work smarter, not harder” approach and often requires substantial capital investment, process improvement and more skilled, better educated workers.
Economic growth requires public investment in higher education. Period.
Administrators who believe that minimal training is the best way to support economic growth need to reconsider their occupational choices. Having an educated workforce has never contributed to economic decline. Greater participation in the workforce by women and minorities is also not detrimental to economic prosperity.
Trustees who claim to be “afraid” of the taxpayers (especially in Washtenaw County), do not belong in a decision-making role for the institution. Taxpayers here reflexively grant requests for education-related taxes. And accordingly, Washtenaw County’s economic position is one of the best in the State of Michigan. The only reason not to ask Washtenaw County taxpayers for more support is concern about one’s own tax bill. (And if that is your reason for being on the Board, you do not belong on the Board.)
Unfortunately, WCC has both administrators and Trustees who operate in direct opposition to what is best for the people of Washtenaw County.
It is time for a change.
Photo Credit: Ricky Shore , via Flickr