The U.S. has to find new ways to rebuild its workforce.
For 23 straight months now, the U.S. economy has been hemorrhaging jobs. The report card isn't pretty.
One in six Americans, 17 percent, is underemployed. That's nearly 25 million people who are out of work, have given up looking, or been forced to take a part time job.
The recession has wiped out 15 percent of our manufacturing workforce. That's more than 2 million jobs that will likely never come back.
The damage to America's labor force is both deep and profound. The Great Recession has obliterated a decade's worth of job growth.
Economic prosperity is impossible without job growth. But in the decade just ended, we created less than half a million new jobs. In each of the previous four decades, the economy generated at least 18 million jobs.
"Its going to take a really long time for recovery," said Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "We are going to have elevated unemployment for probably the next five years."
Estella and Mike Pesapane are jet engine technicians. But Pratt & Whitneyplans to shut down their plant this year, and ship most of those 1,000 jobs overseas.
"All my experience, what do I do with it," asks Mike Pesapane. "I gotta start all over. I gotta go back to school?"
What's happened? The United States is still the world's strongest economy, but our competitive edge is eroding.
Analysts say innovation must be the first in a three-pronged strategy to replace lost American jobs.
In the 1960's, launching the Apollo space program created millions of jobs and led to innovations like fuel cells and freeze dried food.
That same decade, the defense department began building a computer network that became the internet.
Justin Rattneris chief technology officer for Intel. He's the man who developed the first supercomputer to process one trillion operations per second.
Research and Development
That's the second part of the solution for job creation: research and development. But government spending on research and development actually fell by 3.8 percent in 2009. That's the worst drop in 30 years. Just when growing young industries like Printed Electronics are looking for money.
Andy Hannah's Pittsburgh company, Plextronics, which makes low cost solar panels, has quickly expanded to 70 employees. But the Europeans have pumped $1 billion into research, while the U.S. has done virtually nothing.
"We are behind," Hannah said. "This can bring a real manufacturing base back to the United States."
Intel just committed $7 billion to build new factories in Arizona, Oregon and New Mexico, to make the next generation of semiconductor devices. That will mean thousands of new jobs, but Justin Rattner said they may be hard to fill.
"Are you telling me that even if we innovate and create new products, we don't necessarily have the people to do the jobs," Mason asked.
"That's right," Rattner replied. "We're not graduating nearly the numbers of engineers that are coming out of universities in China and India and elsewhere."
That's why education has to be the final part of the strategy for job growth. In a recent study, 15-year-olds in the U.S. ranked 21st out of 30 countries in science scores.
What are they up against? India's high tech giant, Infosys just opened a $120 million training center: the biggest corporate college in the world.
Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan said the 330-acre campus will train an army of 14,000 new engineers a year, just for his company.
"For every employee, we have actually charted out a complete career plan - which takes them from a software engineer to potentially a CEO of the company," Gopalakrishnan said.
Freeman Hrabowskiis president of the University of Maryland/Baltimore County. It's a small school that places a big emphasis on science, math and engineering.
"Clearly the more people we have who are prepared in those disciplines, the more inventors we'll have the more people will be thinking about tech commercialization and starting jobs and starting new companies," he said.
Hrabowski is even sending his grad students into grade schools.
In just 10 years, sixth graders will be entering the labor market. But will the jobs be there for them?
America has done it before, made the investment in innovation and education that paid off in decades of unsurpassed prosperity.
"We have to start a lot of things. Not all of them are gonna work out," Rattner said. "In fact, only a tiny fraction of them will turn into an Intel or a Google or a General Electric. But if you're not investing you're not giving yourself really a chance to play."
The benefits of those investments are often unexpected. But a ripple can grow into a wave, and that's how new industries and new jobs are born.
Why Skilled Immigrants Are Leaving the U.S
President Obama on the "Education To Innovate" Campaign
Analysis: Job Market Is a Long Way from Recovery
Re-emerging U.S. R&D
Technology Review's 2009 Young Innovators Under 35