Invest In Learning

 Basic Business Cents

Education is an investment that keeps on returning dividends to individuals, their family, their company or organization, and to their community. Education is what made this country and there is a direct relationship with the strength of the economy and the strength of education.

A report by the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress stated in the year 2000, “Human capital is the notion that individuals acquire skills and knowledge to increase their value in labor markets. Experience, training, and education are the three main mechanisms for acquiring human capital, with education being primary for most individuals. Education facilitates the acquisition of new skills and knowledge that increase productivity. This increase in productivity frees up resources to create new technologies, new businesses, and new wealth, resulting in increased economic growth.”

Examining the three mechanisms, experience tends to come from doing the same thing over and over again. Dr. W. Edwards Deming used to say that experience by itself teaches nothing; we need some theory to support or disprove with experience. By making this comparison of theory to experience, we learn to modify or change our theory.

Dr. Richard Bawden of the University of Western Sidney says we have to learn how to learn; that is, to think and develop a theory of what to expect, apply knowledge learned from our training, experience the result, compare that with our theory and modify our theory and keep going around the loop, continually learning. Eventually, he says we need to learn to challenge on a regular basis what we consider to be true.

Families benefit from investment in education with higher earning power during individuals’ lifetimes, greater employment stability, higher self-confidence and esteem, improved living standards, better health and longer life span (due to learning how to take better care of one’s health). Youths that work and attend school are found to have a decreased likelihood of engaging in criminal activities.

Communities benefit from investment in education with a workforce better to attract new industry, increase the vitality of the community, grow the population and therefore the tax base, and to keep promising youth in their hometowns. Data suggest that there is reduced reliance on welfare and public assistance programs among those with higher levels of education. It would seem to be a better investment in education rather than in criminal incarceration and welfare programs.

Employers’ organizations benefit from investment in education by the ability to attract better employees which increases productivity, quality of goods and services, and at a lower cost. Turnover of employees can be expected to be reduced with a more stable, educated workforce. The more education individuals acquire, the better they are able to absorb new information, acquire new skills, and familiarize themselves with new technologies. Education is becoming increasingly more important in our new information economy.

Knowledge is based on theory and we develop our theories by continued learning. The days are long gone when we “finish our education”. Technology, communication, and knowledge of what we deem to be true are changing so fast that we need to continue formal education as long as we live.

Today that is difficult for us in this community except for e-learning over the web but we have an opportunity. Minnesota State Community and Technical College is offering college courses in Park Rapids at the Frank White Education Center. Office hours for consultation are Wednesdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm. They are offering a curriculum leading to Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees plus other diplomas and certificates. Other courses can be offered as needed by local businesses or just interesting topics for adults. They just need a critical mass of students in each class; currently the thinking is that fifteen students are enough to make a class a go.

The important question facing us is what we need to do to make MN States presence in Park Rapids successful. I believe it is tremendously important to the future of our community to have a local source for continuing education. I would like to see a concentrated effort to raise scholarship funds for local students. I think service clubs, foundations, businesses, and individuals could endow scholarships or make yearly contributions.

We proposed a Junior College in Park Rapids in 1966 and it never came to pass. Let’s not blow another opportunity to get higher education in our community for the benefit of our families, community, and organizations. We have the opportunity to reap huge dividends from modest investments by sharing the knowledge that this opportunity exists, by subsidizing employees to continue their education, by creating scholarships for local students, by investing in our children, and by enrolling ourselves.

It will happen if we make the investment to put people in the seats.