Building our youth for the future

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future,” said President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, during a University of Pennsylvania address. It was true for our nation back then, and it’s essential today for the success of the Sierra Region and beyond.

Northern Nevada is once again entering into a new economic phase, with all of the excitement, opportunities and challenges that the area experienced during the discovery of the Comstock Lode. Only this time, we have historical lessons learned to draw from, and the big picture offers a compelling perspective FDR would have appreciated.

In 2011, Dr. Robert Lang, a director of Brookings Institute West and a Professor at UNLV, and Dr. Arthur Nelson, a Professor at the University of Utah, published Megapolitan America. This ground-breaking book, based on many years of research, accurately identifies the 10 economic areas of the U.S, and describes how they function. Their research data supports predictions for growth in these megapolitan areas. Our region is part of the Sierra Pacific Megapolitan Area, which include California’s Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. Lang and Nelson connect the dots, making the convincing case Northern Nevada has direct and impactful economic links to Northern California that cannot be ignored.

With this established, one can look at the predictions that were made by the authors in 2011 and quickly see them unfolding in 2016. Lang and Nelson project by 2040, the population of the Sierra Pacific area will increase by about 4 million people, who will require 1.9 million new housing units; 2.8 million new jobs will be added by current businesses, along with more than 5 billion square feet of new commercial and industrial workspace.

Interestingly, the projected jobs in our predicted future will be in the “knowledge class.” This is expected to include both “non-location bound” white collar workers and the new breed of skilled and technology-savvy workers required by Next Generation Manufacturers. The economic growth of the Sierra Region will depend on these segments of the workforce.

Economic growth is never-ending and inevitable. It was true in 1940, and it remains true today. Just as we had to “build” our youth then for the “industrial class,” today we need to do the same for knowledge work.

This shift in needed workplace skills is the driving force behind the strong emphasis and laser-like focus Governor Sandoval has placed on education and workforce development. These are not “bumper-sticker” political statements. They’re real issues that have a direct impact on our children and their children. It’s about their future success, as much as our own. Aligning with and supporting the Governor regarding this top priority helps to ensure Nevada’s continued economic health.

Nevada’s K-12 School Districts, in collaboration with the Nevada System of Higher Education, are already working to address these new workforce requirements. I’m proud of our school systems, teachers and administrators who are constantly working to meet the needs of our students. Their hard work is paying off, with the best yet to come.

NNDA’s mission includes working diligently to support education and workforce development. During its monthly breakfast at 7 a.m. on Aug. 24 at the Carson Nugget, NNDA is pleased to host an interactive roundtable of the School District Superintendents from all five counties in the Sierra Region. Join us to hear the Superintendents discuss the exciting academic programs and initiatives being offered by our K-12 system to prepare the next generation of workers for successful careers and to meet the needs of Nevada employers.

A skilled workforce is the product of an education system that’s more than books. It includes integrity and character, with the guidance and participation of families and friends. These are goals of the Sierra Region school systems and catalysts to success for all.


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