At the recent PRTEC (Puerto Rico TechnoEconomic Corridor) Forum, Dr. Jorge Vélez Arocho, Chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, spoke about the Role of the University in the New Knowledge Economy.
His presentation was lucid and insightful. He acknowledged the power of the University as a magnet for ideas, recognizing that the Mayagüez campus has developed a worldwide reputation as a producer of scientific and technical talent.
Dr. Vélez mentioned a series of initiatives, many of them already in motion, that will expand the University’s role in biotech, nanotech, food safety research, computer engineering, hi-tech business development and student exploration/experiences of other countries. He stated that universities are already falling behind, both here in Puerto Rico and around the world, and that to avoid becoming ultimately irrelevant, they had to act upon a future context, with a global, multicultural point of view, an innovation-always mentality and should seek to become and establish a learning community that broke down barriers between “academia,” “business” and “the populace.”
But Dr. Vélez’s biggest contribution was in stating that we must act. He challenged the audience to cut the talk and get to work. (He said it more diplomatically; The Jenius doesn’t need or want to be diplomatic.) His urging was to move as quickly as possible from Idea to Action by finding the resources that could get the Idea off the ground, if only in a small step.
Dr. Vélez stated he was aware that money was always a needed resource, but he urged the attendees to stop waiting for the government to fund ideas, that the search should include the thousands of private sources available, to be creative in forming alliances and partnerships, but above all, to seek new ground from a global perspective. Dr. Vélez pointed out that refining or trying to perfect what has been created was not the wave of the future: the future belongs to innovation, where the entire process from concept to execution could be managed.
Of the many statistics and trends he mentioned, one stands out: By 2035, education and learning would be the industry providing the most “income opportunities.” The Jenius agrees, but sees that date as being a “global” figure. For the world we live in, the so-called “First World,” education and learning will be that primary income opportunity niche well-before 2035. At present, education and learning, if broadly defined to include non-fiction books and multimedia, accounts for almost 9% of the all retail purchases in the U.S. with a growth rate of 15-17% a year and rising even faster. At that rate, by 2014, education and learning will be only second to food as a personal expense.
Statistics may lie, by intent or accident. Ignore the numbers and simply look at the world around You. It is changing faster. It is becoming more complex. It is opening markets that have never been sold to before. It is placing a premium on the individual, on his/her power of choice, talent and potential. The key to using talent and potential to the utmost lies in educational choices, beginning with the first one: Will I become a true knowledege worker/lifelong learner or will I let the world pass Me by?
The Jenius Has Spoken