The Los Angeles Times reported on March 6, 2006 that advanced education is providing less of a buffer against offshoring than had been supposed. The article quotes Alan Blinder, a Princeton economics professor and former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve, as estimating that one-third of the total jobs in the US were susceptible to offshoring. Regarding the role of education in providing protection, he is quoted, “More education has been the right answer for the past decades, but I am not so convinced that it is the right course” for coping with the upheavals of globalization. (See related article by Blinder in Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006)
It is not surprising that higher and higher level jobs are being sent offshore. Hagel and Brown (What has offshoring got to do with research universities?, Feb.22, 2006) describe one of the dynamic aspects of the offshoring movement as being the large numbers of “underemployed” but highly educated workers in countries such as China and India. Educational systems in a number of countries are improving rapidly, and highly trained workers often are being produced faster than the local job market can absorb them. Why not look to our outsourcable jobs to provide work for the underemployed knowledge workers?
Blinder is quoted in the LA Times article as saying that the critical difference in the future will be between "those types of work that are easily deliverable through a wire … and those that are not." However, as technology increases, more and more types of work will be possible to do “through a wire”. After all Pinchus Zukerman teaches his violin students using videoconferencing when on tour, and recently gave a demonstration violin lesson using Internet2. Who knows what will be possible in the near future?
It seems likely that this problem will become larger over time rather than smaller. It clearly poses a huge challenge to American higher education. What kinds of changes in our education need to be implemented in order that graduates be well prepared to meet challenges of this type, as well as others that globalization invariably will bring? How must universities change in order to stay relevant if, as Blinder suggests, more education(at least as we do it now) is not the right course?