CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In his book, "The Coming Jobs War," Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton addresses the future of job creation, and reports that Gallup's recent world poll (yes, a poll of the world) found that what people all over the globe want most of all is a good job. The poll supports Clifton's premise that countries must make creating good jobs their number one mission and primary purpose.
One of the 12 chapters of this short, insightful book is "K-12 Schools -- Where Entrepreneurs Are Created." In it, Clifton observes that student graduation rates are one of the most definitive predictors of a city's future innovation, entrepreneurship, and subsequent job growth and GDP. He argues the more that fifth- and 12th-graders have a positive image of entrepreneurship, the better off a region will be.
He concludes the chapter with this dire warning: "So, if the image of free enterprise and entrepreneurship is going up among your youth, you will experience job creation. If it is trending down, may God be with you."
How can we improve the odds that West Virginia youth will become innovative entrepreneurs of tomorrow? Make sure that more of them graduate from high school.
Clifton notes that despite efforts by various experts, there doesn't seem to be a clear solution to fixing the high dropout rate among U.S. high school students. Gallup polling finds that students drop out of school when they lose hope to graduate, when they don't feel excited about what is next in their lives.
He argues that we must change the cause of hopelessness, not the effects, and that hope is a better predictor of academic success than grades or test scores. Clifton makes specific suggestions about how to increase hope among the country's student population.
First, focus local efforts on student engagement and instilling the confidence to graduate. Manage the students' confidence and hope as much as their grades. By doing so, a good job becomes the prize -- not simply graduation.
Second, he offers Gallup's pro bono student poll (gallupstudentpoll.com) as a way to start collecting the data needed to track the core behavioral economic metrics. The questions in this poll are designed to gauge students' attitudes toward work, money, and entrepreneurship, and if tracked, can be used to which predict future economic energy in a community.
Third, Clifton recommends involving all local social-based organizations. Have a kickoff meeting, invite all stakeholders, ask for their input on how to instill confidence, how to align all the available resources to double student confidence?
TechConnect West Virginia is one of several organizations in the state that is working to foster a more widespread entrepreneurial culture in our state and to facilitate the creation of successful innovation-based companies. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to generate more of the good-paying jobs in exciting new industries that our young people need, which will create more opportunities for all in the future.
Barth is executive director of TechConnect West Virginia.