CHESTERTON — Talent has always been the key to economic success for the nation, station, region and local community, author Jamie Merisotis told a group Monday.

But, what was talent back in the 20th century, and how that talent was groomed and cultivated then won’t work in the 21st century, he said.

Merisotis, author of the recently published “America Needs Talent” and president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, addressed about 100 community and business leaders during a special event at Sand Creek Country Club sponsored by the Northwest Indiana Forum and Center of Workforce Innovations.

Developing talent for the jobs available now and in the future is the number one concern of businesses and communities, Merisotis said.

Talent, he defined, is not innate, but is what happens when knowledge, skills and abilities are honed by experience in education.

Merisotis told the group that ideas on developing talent must change to meet future needs. That includes reinvigorating the private sector by giving it the tools needed to focus on talent development. It also means redefining the federal government’s role in the process, including realigning the work done by the Department of Education and training strategies within other departments.

Merisotis said immigration must be re-imagined and the nation must not buy into the present divisive rhetoric being chanted by some groups.

The idea, he said is to make education more attainable by more people. That will take redesigning the higher education system to better serve students and to make postsecondary education more affordable.

“We have to achieve real equity and excellence in education to clear pathways to success,” he said, adding that the vast majority of jobs created since the end of the recent recession call for some sort of education past high school. That could include college, but also certification in skills and trades.

Locally, he said people need to be more aware of the urgency of talent development.

“The message is not getting to the consumer, to the people,” he said, encouraging those present to not depend on government representatives, but to organize and advocate for Northwest Indiana at the state level for improvements that will produce more and better talent for the future.

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Joyce has been a staff writer for The Times for more than 20 years. She is the municipal and education reporter for Porter County. She is an amateur genealogist and writes a blog, Remember your Roots, appearing online each Thursday.