The United States is facing significant challenges when it comes to our future workforce. At one point in our history, we ranked number one against other nations in science and math. Today, our country ranks 16th and 22nd*, respectively, depending on the study you consider.

If we look at the Global Innovation Index, which ranks the most innovative countries in the world, the United States was stuck in fourth place. Now it stands in sixth place out of 25 countries in innovation capabilities.

There is a shortage of workers entering science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) industries. Over two million jobs are vacant because we don’t have the ready workforce.

It is an even greater problem when we consider the people of color missing. Approximately 80 percent of the science and engineering workforce in the U.S. are white or Asian males.

By and large, our educational system doesn’t foster creativity in academic processes and huge disparities continue to exist based on zip codes. Don’t get me wrong: there are a few unique schools that are doing great things. But the gaps we have today are only going to get greater if we continue to do the same things.

So how can we regain our position as a global leader?

For this nation to return to its level of prominence as it relates to economic competitiveness, innovation, and achievement, there must be a sustained effort to encourage our young people.

We must make career choices in STEAM fields more palatable, exciting and fun for the generations to come. We also need to encourage them to not only start down those paths but matriculate, attain those degrees, enter the workforce and start businesses in these fields.

A critical success factor and competitive advantage is to have an educated workforce and society. I believe there is much work to be done to have this country head in the right direction. If we are not continuing to innovate, educate and diversify its workforce, we are moving backward, not simply holding our position. Meanwhile, other nations are catching up and passing us because they want to be what America has always been: a beacon of opportunity.

Finally, we must abolish the system of economic immobility that is pervasive in America. Opportunities abound for people in some zip codes, while others struggle to realize the same opportunities. The cost of that segregation is lost income, lost lives and lost potential.

That is why the Global Leadership Forum’s idea of an inclusive ecosystem is a national imperative. We don’t have to look years down the road to see the dire world we will be leaving the next generation. The effects of systemic inequality are obvious, and it’s not getting better. Without massive action, I believe it can get much worse.

The Global Leadership Forum is creating that ecosystem with a coalition of individuals, organizations, and communities that believe in the constitutional statutes on which this country was established. We stand on the foundational tenet that everyone is created equal and deserves an equal shot at achieving whatever level of success they choose to attain.

What will that require?

We in the Global Leadership Forum understand that this world equally distributes talent, but it does not equally distribute opportunities. We want to use educational opportunities in STEAM industries to completely flip the script on that unfortunate fact and make those opportunities abundant to those that are talented but may never have a chance to use those talents for many different reasons.

The Global Leadership Forum (GLF) appointed Kendall Norris as its first Chief Executive Officer in August 2017. 

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