Consumer Electronics Show:

Executives at CES say U.S. must improve education

Ford Motor Company President and CEO Alan Mulally (L) responds to a question during a CES Innovation Power Panel at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jan. 11, 2012. Verizon Enterprise Solutions President John Stratton listens at right. CES, the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow, runs through Friday.

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A panel of CEOs at the International Consumer Electronics Show talked philosophically Wednesday about innovation and what they agreed to be a formula for success — a plan that would likely get high fives from residents of Nevada.

In a departure from keynote speeches featuring executives demonstrating their companies' newest products, leaders from Ford Motor Co., Xerox and Verizon drew applause from a standing-room-only crowd when they identified better education and economic diversification as key to the United States catching up to leading-edge businesses worldwide.

"We must fundamentally improve our educational system," said Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox, during the CES' Innovation Power Panel session. "We need to make science and math a desirable place to be. We need great teachers. We need excited learners. We can't complain if we don't have them, if we don't invest in them."

Burns said part of the formula was to make students realize how much four or six more years of education after high school could change their financial outlook and success.

"Unfortunately, it's still not cool to be that way," Burns said. "And it's amazing to me how few people are thinking that way."

Consumer Electronics Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro, who moderated the panel, said that after Apple executive Steve Jobs' death from last year, one of the positives for the industry was the way his life as an innovator was celebrated. That, Shapiro said, showed respect for innovators and the need for an educated work force.

Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford, added that the United States needed to get back into an environment in which businesses were allowed to grow.

"Manufacturing can be a big part of fueling U.S. growth," Mulally said. "It's almost like we've decided not to be competitive."

Mulally's company is trying to be more competitive on a global scale, introducing the Ford Focus Electric at this year's show. He also said the new Ford Explorer Hybrid, also on the CES floor, would be exported to 93 countries.

John Stratton, president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, said his company was fostering innovation through operation of centers in Boston and San Francisco that welcome entrepreneurs to develop phone applications and services that would benefit other users.

Stratton said the federal government's delays on establishing understandable tax policy and regulatory burdens placed on companies by the government were preventing companies from expanding and leading in innovation.

CES is making its own contribution to innovation by creating a show floor for innovative products. Called Eureka! Park, the area has more than 100 technological advancements on display in one place.

Shapiro said the area featured 20 market-specific "TechZones" covering such product categories as broadband services, safe driving and sustainable technologies. Officials are hoping venture capitalists will contact exhibitors there to expand production or market the innovations.

CES will continue through Friday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Venetian and the Las Vegas Hotel, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton.

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  1. If these fat cats want to raise the level of education then they must open their wallets and forgo that next shiny million dollar toy they just have to have. In addition, raise the wages of the average workers to the point that only one family member has to work so the other parent can look after the children. This isn't hard to do with business sitting on more money than god.

  2. The problem is clearly addressed: "Improve education."

    The politicians of the RINO/DINO party THEN use their universal socialistic translator and the phrase comes out as: Give educrats in Washington WAY more money (for more Empire building and Virginia McMansions.)

    Then pile on more funding for WAY more local administrators, give teachers even less classroom power, create more under-funded mandates at the local level such as massive diversity education.

    Meanwhile put in helpful laws and rules that rigorously lower discipline and raise tolerance for the criminal element among the students, deliberately ignore/limit basic subjects like math and languages and ensure that ALL history and social study subjects are virulently anti American.

    There that should do it; education the Washington way!

  3. Each of the corporations represented on stage actively seek tax breaks for locating or improving facilities, training workers, etc. While we all understand the need for significant improvements in education, especially mathematics, science and technology, those improvements have to be funded. You want more effective teachers (see Nicholas Kristof's column in the NYT 1/12/12), then please lay out your plan for attracting top candidates, training them and compensating them for a truly difficult job so that they don't leave the profession and go into the private sector. although my experience teaching is limited to four years at the end of my career I do not disagree with the notion that many teachers are modest in their knowledge and skill. When discussing this problem with a CCSD administrator she stated that a teacher doesn't have to be much smarter than the brightest kid in the class.