Recently I have been bombarded with dooms-day predictions regarding the American economy. I cannot blame my friends for their fears and precautions, after all our country has struggled for many years to pull itself out of a recession. Despite these harsh realities, I believe America has the ability to respond to change. How can education respond to this change? First, we must identify the challenges facing us.
Participation in the labor force is at an all time low. In fact, the United States ranked 20th in the world in 2014, a dramatic drop from number one in 1980. Maybe this is caused by the reduction of national production of resources. We no longer produce what we need to sustain our country and thereby rely upon international allies for support (Chafuen, 2015). But are these international associations truly allies? Predatory trade policies are costing Americans millions of jobs (Heffner, 2015).
The retail industry has also been affected by these challenges. Within the last twelve months several retailers have laid off workers, cancelled orders, closed branches and minimized brick-and-mortar locations (Phelps, 2015). Band of Outsiders, Kate Spade, J. Crew, and Abercrombie and Fitch are just a few American companies facing these economic decisions. Sales have been unstable and consumer demand unpredictable. Women’s Wear Daily will announce the rise in stock prices for one company and immediately the decline of a competitor (Edelson, 2015).
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All of these facts create the cynics surrounding me. I can understand why! However, I refuse to believe there is only one result: catastrophe. I believe we will survive this “reinvention” of the American economy. As educators, we must be ready to respond to this change. Knowing what we do about the challenges facing the economy and the retail industry, how can we respond? I have a theory:
- Focus on going global. Teach students how to research and adapt business strategies for international markets. Not only will this open more doors but it will also provide students the tools to adapt to changes in the American market.
- Make room for technology. Allow flexibility within the curriculum and budget for new technology. Technology is advancing quickly. Planning for this will help with the transition.
- Collaborate with other fields of study. With the integration happening across industries, it is important to mirror this in the classroom. By partnering with courses outside of the fashion program, students learn how to work with people who have other interests.
- Return to design fundamentals. The elemental design processisproblem solving. Education needs to return to a focus on how to diagnosis issues and develop solutions. Encouraging creativity and promoting “makers” will allow students to approach the change as a problem to be solved and be equipped to do so (N. Pidgeon, personal communication, June 25, 2015).
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We may not be able to avoid this change my friends stress about, but we can prepare. As educators we must see these challenges as fortuitous and equip our students to take advantage of the climate change. If we do a good job in preparing them, these students will be the trailblazers turning these troubles into opportunity. Creating strategies now to prepare them is what we, as educators, are supposed to do and it is what we must do now to help them navigate the changes to come.
What do you think? Are there other methods we can use to prepare our students for this “reinvention” of the American economy?
Chafuen, A. (January 1, 2015). The U.S. Economy In 2015: Challenges And Opportunities, Forbes World Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2015/01/01/the-u-s-economy-in-2015-challenges-and-opportunities/.
Edelson, S. (June 19, 2015). Retailers Cut Jobs as Pressures Mount, Women’s Wear Daily. Retrieved from http://wwd.com/retail-news/financial/layoffs-job-cuts-retail-10159174/.
Heffner, T. (March 15, 2015). Economic Problems Facing the U.S., Economy in Crisis: America’s Economic Report- Daily. Retrieved from http://economyincrisis.org/content/major-economic-problems-facing-united-states.
Phelps, N. (June 1, 2015). The CFDA Awards Celebrate American Fashion, but It’s Been a Hard Year for the Business, Style.com. Retrieved from http://www.style.com/trends/industry/2015/hard-year-for-american-fashion-business-cfda-awards-essay.