The U.S. workforce propels U.S. leadership in innovation by stewarding the development and deployment of new products and technologies. Sustaining this leadership amidst accelerating technological change means recognizing the changing nature of work and responding to new demands for an evolving portfolio of skills. It also means ensuring that the building blocks of U.S. human capital are sound — that the U.S. education system is high performing and broadly accessible and that training resources serve workers through lifetimes of growth and change.
Failure to proactively prepare students and workers with innovation-ready skills puts the United States at a competitive disadvantage and restricts participation in the innovation economy. Inaction on this front shortchanges the full potential of U.S. human capital, undercuts efforts to capitalize on U.S. innovative capacity and increases the likelihood of painful labor market disruptions triggered by economic change. Robust investments in education and workforce training ensure that the benefits of innovation are broadly shared across the workforce and that workers thrive against a backdrop of rapid change. However, when it comes to building human capital, the U.S. approach is far from meeting this challenge.
A highly skilled and adaptable workforce is a prerequisite for creating and sustaining an innovative national economy. While the first and most important component of investing in human capital is shoring up the skills and capabilities of the domestic workforce, the United States must also compete in the global race for talent by working to attract the best and brightest minds to contribute to the U.S. economy and drive U.S. productivity.
The United States has both a high demand for and a largely untapped global supply of skilled labor, but the mechanism to connect the two — the immigration system — is broken. Failure to continue to attract top global talent to the U.S. labor force represents a missed opportunity for the United States to strengthen its competitive edge in innovation. While U.S. industry has the capacity to lead the world in innovation, the nation risks falling behind in the global race for talent by constraining its own ability to compete.