In April at the Arts Education Partnership National Forum, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated that “the arts can no longer be treated as a frill.” Of course we in the arts community know that art education cultivates critical thinking and analysis skills. But business leaders are also realizing how urgent the need for increased arts education in our schools has become.

During “Arts Education and the Innovative Workforce,” our recent webinar in partnership with The Conference Board, telecom entrepreneur and Qualcomm co-founder Harvey White reinforced Duncan’s statement by stressing that if America’s workforce is to remain competitive on a global level, art education is indeed not a frill but an economic necessity. White quoted former Secretary of Education Richard Riley, who stated that in the future, businesses will seek out employees that can “solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”  The technical skills that students learn through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects are certainly necessary, and even align with arts education—after all the objective of engineering is to creatively solve problems using science and math. However, STEM alone cannot provide all of the critical analysis and creative problem solving skills that future business leaders will require to succeed in the global economy.

White also provided data demonstrating that America’s status as leading world innovator is slipping, and that Chinese parents understand the necessity of creative problem solving skills to innovation in the workplace, while American parents believe math and science education are they key ingredients in producing innovators. For this reason, White has endorsed the idea of adding an “A” for arts to STEM to create “STEAM” subjects that will provide students with the combination of technical AND creative skills the 21st century global workforce requires.

White’s assertions are backed up by data from Ready to Innovate (pdf, 629KB), The Conference Board, Americans for the Arts, and the American Association of School Administrators’ joint study investigating how businesses measure creativity and how the skills employers look for in new hires align with skills cultivated through art education. During the webinar, Americans for the Arts’ Vice President of Local Arts Advancement Randy Cohen connected Ready to Innovate findings with data from the National Arts Index linking arts education to higher SAT scores, even cutting across social and economic strata. 

All of these factors add up to one bottom line: we need art education in our schools now if we want to the American workforce to remain competitive in the future. It’s not just arts advocates who are asking for STEAM; it’s employers like Harvey White who know first hand that STEM education alone will not cultivate the next generation of innovators. America’s position in the global economy depends on it.

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5 Responses to “Arts Education and the Innovative Workforce”

  1. But how do we convince the right people in authority of this? It seems that the problem isn’t so much that the importance of the arts is unprovable, but that nobody seems to believe it. That such a doubt for the importance of the arts to a society, and to a school particularly, is well ingrained in American culture. How do we dislodge this attitude? I think that, even more than the actual arts education, is the biggest and most important challenge to the arts community for the moment. once that is done, education will thrive.

  2. I’ve been teaching performing arts in Oakland CA public schools for 20 years, as an artist in residence with Opera Piccola, an educational arts org.

    My arts education blog is http://www.operapiccola.blogspot.com.

    The benefits of the arts go way beyond the cognitive and workplace skills we are all familiar with. The character and affective results are equally important in order to navigate the considerable ups and downs of life, not to mention imagination/creativity and ability to collaborate. Right now there is no money for arts in California, except perhaps for the larger groups with huge subscriber pools and endowments. My question: we can do all the persuading of Power we want, but if funds are going to two wars and bail outs, what good does it do? What should we be doing given the Great Recession?

  3. craig says:

    Well stated argument for STEAM and for arts education in schools. Now, if only, those who make policy would listen and act on these findings.

  4. rick morgan says:

    I posted this on the article about philanthropy, but I wanted to share it because I think various art education programs could use Mr. King’s initiative to raise money for their programs. He’s been very generous to my organization so I just wanted to share the love…

    I don’t have any media training so you have to forgive my email, for it is definitely not a press release. I was wondering if you could share the info below with your colleagues and followers.
    Probably the most beneficial link is from The Florida Citizen.. They did a good job summing up my sentiments… http://www.thefloridacitizen.com/things-to-do See the article about Calendars for a Cause.

    This is a link to Ed King’s website. He has agreed to donate 20% of the cost of his 2011 calendar to any charity as designated by the buyer (local, national, or international). The buyer just needs to mention the name of the charity in the note to seller portion of the order form or email Ed King directly with a receipt number.
    http://web.mac.com/bahapta/Calendars_Cause/Calendar_Contest.html

    He has turned this into a contest. The charity or not for profit with the most mentions will then receive a custom piece of artwork by Ed King that will incorporate the mission, values, or any other components for the organization. It’s an easy fundraiser for organizations to do.

    A nurse and I started a not for profit called People In Crisis United. We work to improve the quality of life for kids and their families while they are hospitalized. We have been lucky to work very closely with Mr. King. He has donated his time, skills, and supplies to do art projects with our kids at the hospital. He has been able to uplift the spirit of kids with art… Some of the kids that the staff have been challenging for the staff, really warmed up with Mr. King.

    Of course, I would love if all of your followers would mention People In Crisis United when they purchase a calendar. We are completely volunteer and not for profit. We try to meet the non-medical needs of the children and their families. Some of our kids are in the hospital for three years straight. I am sure you can imagine how this might take a toll on their spirit and the quality of life for these kids and their families. With the money raised, we sponsor monthly family dinners, offer art projects, bring in musicians, take the children out of the hospital for field trips, and offer gifts to keep their spirits raised. Our work is very meaningful, and we hope to be able to continue to do good deeds for these kids.

    Please feel free to contact me at anytime with any questions. Generally email is the best method of communication, but my cell phone is on 24 hours a day. You can follow our not for profit on Facebook by searching for People In Crisis United.

    Cordially,
    Rick Morgan, RRT
    2630 SW 28th ST
    Unit 18
    Coconut Grove, Fl 33133
    richard.morgan@jhsmiami.org
    (786) 543 9286 cell/text

  5. Me gusta tu blog, acabo de descubrilo y a partir de ahora soy Fun. Saludos

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The pARTnership Movement is a new initiative from Americans for the Arts that provides businesses and arts organizations with the resources they need to make meaningful collaborations; partnerships that not only support a healthy, creative and artistic community, but that also give businesses a competitive advantage.
For more information please visit www.partnershipmovement.org.

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