Innovation and California
California has a long history of fostering and encouraging technological
Innovation is part and parcel of the state's history. The transcontinental railroad
across the Sierra was an engineering feat of immense importance to the nation. Homegrown invention of
the Pelton turbine brought hydroelectricity to California, making possible an industrial
infrastructure. Aircraft were experimented with in the 1880s and perfected as military plane
production in the 1950s. By the 1920s, California was a leader in vacuum tube technology,
which was then replaced by the transistor in the 1950s and 1960s. And now we lead the world in
biotechnology and nanotechnology. California's open, flexible, and entrepreneurial nature
has made it a region friendly to the search for improvement through science and technology.
In past decades, California faced the challenge of Sputnik (1957), the "missile gap"
(1960), and the Japanese manufacturing and IT challenge (1980s) by mobilizing its universities,
government, and the private sector. Today, globalization,
shortfalls in the STEM education pipeline, and shifting demographics pose comparable
challenges. A similar effort can mobilize the state's workforce training capacity to meet
the rapidly evolving global challenges and to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
However, California's Workforce Investment Boards and their partners must align with the
state's strong cultural history of science, innovation, and entrepreneurship in order to succeed.