Economics, Innovations, Technology, and Engineering Education: The Connections
Ritz, John M., Bevins, P. Scott, Journal of Technology Studies
Throughout history the success of economies around the world has in large part been influenced by technological growth and innovations. Along with such growth and innovations came higher living standards and an improved quality of life for citizens residing and participating in those economies. However, not all countries were able to grow and develop at the same rate, resulting in considerable differences in economic welfare across populations. As nations around the world address the 21st century, economic growth and prosperity for some nations will depend upon how well their citizens are equipped and motivated to seek new technological discoveries and innovations or participate in the supply chain for the production of such new innovations. Such decision making by individuals will be influenced by both economic and political factors existing within each respective country. After providing a description of economic development, the researchers analyze the current economic conditions in several advanced and developing countries and regions around the world, identifying factors that impact the development in those areas. In the remainder of the article, the focus is placed on the skills needed for 21st century workers and the role technology and engineering education might play in eroding the gaps in skill sets required for developing a workforce, thus moving a country forward in development and affluence.
Keywords: Economics, Innovation, Technology and Engineering Education, 21st Century Skills
Economic Growth and Development
Economic growth is important for the wellbeing of people and nations. According to Herrick and Kindleberger (1983) "economic growth means more output, and economic development implies not only more output but also different kinds of output than were previously produced, as well as changes in the technical and institutional arrangements by which output is produced and distributed" (p. 21). That is, economic development encompasses new innovation and technological improvements and discoveries, leading to growth in real output and higher living standards. In short, economic growth implies the increased capacity or ability to produce either more goods or provide more services for which consumers are willing and able to buy. Factors contributing to economic growth include additional resources, innovations, and increased labor productivity.
Economic growth is measured in terms of the standard of living or per capita real gross domestic product (GDP), yielding the real monetary value of final goods and services produced for each individual in a given year. Although there is no guarantee that each individual will have the means to acquire that monetary amount, increasing living standards will provide greater opportunities for populations to succeed. Higher living standards mean more goods and services are produced for consumption, and sales revenues, employment, and personal income increase. As more goods and services are produced for consumption, economic welfare or satisfaction gained from the consumption of those goods and services is assumed to increase. Per capita real income is a better indirect measure of economic welfare or well-being than per capita real GDP, because it reflects more closely the average purchasing power of the individual. Consequently, growth rates, as exhibited by percentage changes in real income, provide a better indirect estimate of improvement in the quality of life.
Changes in living standards occur from variations in either real GDP or population. If the population grows at a faster rate than real GDP, mathematically, goods and services would be spread more thinly across all individuals. Historically, countries developing the fastest were those classified as capitalist nations having market-oriented economies, the G7 nations - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States. Those economies provided greater opportunities for individual success, whether a person engaged in risk taking through entrepreneurship or elected to work for someone else. …