Prestigious Chinese university joins forces with the University of Washington to run a graduate institute focused on technology and innovation

Tsinghua University of Beijing is partnering with the University of Washington to start a graduate institute in Bellevue’s Bel-Red Corridor that could grow to 3,000 students, reports the Seattle Times.

The Global Innovation Exchange, or GIX as it will be known, will start with a few dozen students in fall 2016, next fall, both American and Chinese. It could grow to 3,000 students in a decade. At least two other international universities are expected to join up.

Faculty from both universities will teach in English. Students will have the chance to earn a master’s degree over 15 months. GIX will focus on sustainability, health, inequality, environmental issues, transportation and clean energy, and more.

The program builds on the fields of computer science and electrical engineering but will span many other disciplines. The work will be project-based, with Chinese and American students working together in such fields as cloud computing and the “Internet of things,” the concept of connecting everyday objects to the Internet to make them smarter and capable of doing more.

Microsoft is donating $40 million to support the effort.

This is a great development for our state, where a persistent gap between the skills that job candidates have and the skills that Washington’s employers need, is growing. A 2013 study found 25,000 jobs have gone unfilled in our state because employers couldn’t find qualified candidates.

That number was projected to double by 2017.  Steps to improve education capacity in high demand fields are essential to closing the gap. Having a world-class technology and innovation center in the Puget Sound area has the potential to significantly contribute to closing the gap and bolster Washington’s position as a technology leader.


Increasing in-state talent pool depends on education

The Seattle-based Technology Alliance recently released Benchmarking Washington’s Innovation Economy.  How did Washington do compared to the rest of the country?

While our economy shows signs of vibrancy and technological growth, according to the report Washington’s education system isn’t keeping up with the demand for talent to take advantage of these opportunities.

“Washington is clearly a leader in generating new knowledge and innovative products, and early data around regional investment indicates increasing demand for a talented workforce to bring these products to market. However, for many years the state’s education pipeline has faced challenges in providing the high-quality talent needed to meet that growing demand. Investments in education have failed to fully prepare Washington’s citizens to take advantage of job opportunities in the STEM careers that drive the innovation economy. Fortunately, in the most recent education data we begin to see promising signs at the elementary level that indicate a more robust domestic talent pipeline in future years.”

With even more tech companies and talent heading to our state, the ability to prepare Washingtonians for these opportunities is growing.

What will it take? The tech alliance highlights three goals:

  • A robust public Pre-K-12 education system that prepares students to succeed in higher education and 21st century careers.
  • A higher education system that prepares significantly more students for high impact career opportunities and meets the growing workforce needs of our innovation economy employers.
  • Become the most competitive location for attracting and retaining educated workers, growing young companies, and sustaining mature companies.

Aiming toward these goals, lawmakers can expand opportunities for our students, employers, and our state.

Chief Executive magazine rankings put Washington 32nd for business climate

We’re closing out the second week of May with some rankings… Chief Executive magazine released its 2015 “Best and Worst States for Business.” Texas, Florida and North Carolina came in top three. Washington ranks #32, earning three out of five stars for workforce quality and two out of five for taxes and regulations. Summary line from the analysis:

High tech and manufacturing continue to be strong with established companies, but Washington’s regulatory environment can stifle outside investment in new facilities.

Rankings like these, while subjective, can be a gauge of how the business climate of our state is perceived. They also beg the question, how can Washington improve? In our view, making Washington a great place to live and work depends on a balanced strategy that encourages both high quality of life and a healthy business climate. To that end, we developed the Benchmarks for a Better Washington in 2011 to track multiple measures covering innovation, quality of life and business costs. According to the Benchmark analysis, Washington has continued to do well on innovation – patent generation and job creation – but there’s room to improve in other areas, including education and transportation. Progress on those should be the focus of the tail end of this legislative session.


Higher postsecondary attainment is key to state’s future success

In a recent report, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, the Lumina Foundation finds that 43.8 percent of Washington state’s 3.8 million working-age adults (those between the ages of 25 and 64) hold a two- or four-year college degree. The percentage increased from 42.5 percent in 2010 and is slightly above the national rate of 41.6 percent.

The Washington State Board of Education provides another look at postsecondary attainment, with 2013-14 data that shows 52 percent of high school graduates attaining certificates, credentials, or completing apprenticeships prior to age 26 (2013-14 data).

Compare this to where we need and want to be as a state, and we know there’s work to do.

By the end of this decade, an estimated 70 percent of jobs in Washington state (as compared to 65 percent nationally) will require postsecondary training.  The state legislature last year adopted a postsecondary attainment goal: At least 70 percent of Washington adults, ages 25 to 44, will have a postsecondary credential by 2023. (See more details in the “Achieve” section of the Opportunity Washington roadmap.)

The decisions that the 2015 Legislature makes in the coming weeks will be important to reaching that goal. Lawmakers should prioritize higher education funding and position the state’s postsecondary system to support economic opportunity through better alignment with workforce needs and greater capacity for high-demand STEM programs.


Percentage of Washington residents, ages 25-64, who hold a two- or four-year college degree