But a ladder to where? That is, where are educated young Americans likely to find good jobs that will not be shipped off to India or China?
The answer, according to a growing number of universities, corporations and government agencies, is in what is being called services science. The hybrid field seeks to use technology, management, mathematics and engineering expertise to improve the performance of service businesses like transportation, retailing and health care – as well as service functions like marketing, design or customer service that are also crucial in manufacturing industries.
A couple of dozen universities – including the University of California at Berkeley, Arizona State, Stanford, North Carolina State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Georgia Tech – are experimenting with courses or research programs in the field.