December 6, 2012
In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams on Rock Center, Apple CEO Tim Cook says that despite the fact that the U.S. lags behind other countries in the level of skilled manufacturing processes and employees, electronics giant Apple will manufacture a line of its popular Mac computers solely in the U.S.
“We’ve been working for years on doing more and more in the United States,” Cook told Williams.
That being said, Cook said that reason for Apple's reliance on nations like China to produce the goods isn't solely so that it can keep a competitive edge on pricing as one might think, but because of the skill set of Chinese workers and Chinese manufacturing.
“It’s not so much about price, it’s about the skills,” Cook told Williams. "Over time there are skills associated with manufacturing that have left the U.S. not necessarily the people but the education system producing them."
It's a warning bell for the U.S. economy and one that is hitting home locally.
Robert Sumicrast, the dean of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, told local business, civic and political leaders this week that one of the challenges Georgia and the Albany area faces in remaining competitive in terms of business production is a lack of skilled workforce.
"The single largest challenge to Georgia's competitiveness on a regional, national and global level is a lack of K-12 education," Sumicrast said.
According to the Terry College of Business, only 65 percent of incoming 9th graders in Georgia will graduate high school within four years. The national average is 75 percent and the average in the European Union in 85 percent.
In Georgia, 8th graders rank 35th in the nation in math scores and 27th in the nation in reading scores.
"The challenge for Georgia isn't that we aren't improving our scores," Sumichrast said, "it's that the rest of the country is improving faster."
Our success as a region, as a state and as a nation has always been tied directly to our ability to educate the next generation. We are failing. Meanwhile, our competitors in Europe and Asia are not.
Particularly disturbing at Albany's Economic Forecast luncheon this week was the lack of educational officials at the meeting.
Only one person affiliated with the Dougherty County School System was present and that was a newly-elected board member who is just beginning to get her feet wet with the board and the system.
There was no board chairman. There was no superintendent. There were no administration officials.
To their credit, the heads of all three major institutions of higher learning in Albany -- Albany State University, Darton State College and Albany Technical College -- were present and attentive.
This, I believe, is part of the problem. School officials should be members of and work closely with organizations like the Economic Development Commission and the Chamber of Commerce so that we can better address business needs and to begin providing a skilled workforce that will be attractive to new business and will provide the students with higher-paying jobs and increased sense of fulfillment.
Who knows? Maybe one day, when you open a brand new MacBook under your tree, it'll be stamped with a great statement on the back: "Proudly made in U.S.A at Albany, Ga."