Rethinking the Mission: Community Colleges and Workforce Education

Key Points

  • Among the education providers in a position to help close the middle-skills gap—unmet demand for workers with more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree—community colleges may be the only institution with the reach and scale to make the difference that’s needed.
  • Existing incentives—state and federal metrics, pressures from accreditors, institutional funding, and student aspirations—encourage community colleges to focus on academic programs at the expense of workforce education.
  • States hold the policy levers that can make the most difference in redressing this imbalance, creating incentives for two-year colleges to put skills and skills training more at the center of their missions.

Click here to read Tamar Jacoby’s complete paper published on the American Enterprise Institute website. 

Stop talking about the need for computer science and start teaching it

Until recently, the basic skills that we are all taught in elementary and secondary school have given us an adequate foundation to lead us through much of daily life.

If you could read, you could learn and follow directions. If you could do math, you could manage your finances or have a successful business. If you could write, you could communicate clearly and advocate for yourself or others.

But the world is changing so fast that these foundational elements of education are no longer enough. At a time when computers increasingly control every aspect of our daily lives – both on the job and at home – the lessons we teach students must adapt to where the world is going, not where it has been.

Because of this, computing education must be part of every core curriculum, from elementary school through college. But teaching all students computing will require a major mind-shift – mostly among educators, who have never learned the subject themselves.

A recent Gallup Poll found that 91 percent of parents want their children to study computer science. However, only one in four schools teaches computer programming.

So how do we stop talking about the need for computer science education and actually start teaching the subject?

Nike builds ‘soft skills’ in Oregon high schoolers with investment in AVID

Nike is one of several private-sector companies featured in a new report about building “soft skills” in the next generation of professionals.

A recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and global nonprofit AVID (advancement via individual determination) revealed that businesses are increasingly coming up short when looking for young, entry-level employees with the “soft skills” needed to be successful in a professional environment.

“Soft skills” are things like making phone calls, maintaining eye contact and understanding interpersonal communication.

The study, called the “Bridging the Soft Skills Gap,” references a Wall Street Journal survey of about 900 executives, ninety-two percent of whom said soft skills are equally or more important than technical skills for new hires, but 89 percent said they have a hard time finding employees with those skills.

Click here to read Clare Duffy’s complete article published on the Portland Business Journal website. 

More than a quarter of professionals under 40 lie on their resume—here’s why

Hiring managers often rely on resumes to figure out whether or not applicants are qualified for a job. But, according to a recent report from online learning platform Udemy, what’s outlined on a candidate’s resume may not exactly match their skills.

As a result of a changing job market, and worries about the future, Udemy found that a significant number of workers feel more inclined to lie about their skills in order to get hired, particularly young people.

“Only 7 percent of people over 40 quoted they were lying about their credentials. For people under 40 it went up to 26 percent,” Udemy’s head of learning and development, Shelley Osborne, tells CNBC Make It.

“The nature of jobs is quickly changing with automation, globalization, government policies, and other factors, making it impossible for anyone to predict which skills a job will require in the future,” Udemy CEO Kevin Johnson said in a news release.

Click here to read Courtney Connley’s complete article published on the CNBC website.

CTE Done Right Should Serve Both College-Bound and Career-Focused Students

Career and technical education — in decades past a way to steer some students into poor-quality training for a trade instead of college — in its more current version can now boost high school graduation rates and give students essential skills before college.

A good CTE program can be aimed at students who aren’t interested in going to college and want to go right into a trade, or those who intend to go straight through to a four-year university — but those aims can sometimes be in conflict, Andy Smarick, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said Wednesday.

“All of those are legitimate goals of CTE, but they are different goals,” he said.

Smarick and other panelists at an American Enterprise Institute event Wednesday morning shared new research on career and technical education in high schools and discussed its changing nature and how it should be adapted for the future.

Click here to read the entire article published on The 74 website – (a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America.)

Maine Compass: Students need to see in person what construction careers can offer

As the state faces a shortage of skilled workers, the Craft Championships, set for Nov. 17, can build enthusiasm for the trades.

On Nov. 17, Mainers will have the opportunity to see the future of our state’s construction industry in action. During a day-long event known as the Craft Championship, now in its 18th year, dozens of construction companies from around the state will be working with more than 1,000 high school students both inside and outside the Augusta Civic Center. Students will be participating in everything from electrical work to welding to carpentry, and some will even have the opportunity to drive a boom truck.

As Maine faces a true shortage in the skilled workforce, events like the Craft Championships can help build enthusiasm for careers in the trades — careers that are solid and pay well. The construction industry is growing, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting that the industry will add 700,000 jobs in the next decade alone in the United States. Right now, the Maine Department of Labor reports that the average weekly wage for construction jobs is nearly $900. When you move into heavy and civil engineering construction, that jumps to nearly $1,200.

Click here to read Brad Stout’s complete article published on the Central Maine website.

Apprenticeship: An answer to Minnesota’s skills gap

Across Minnesota, employers are worried about the shortage of job candidates with the necessary skills and abilities to enter high-demand occupations.

For more and more employers, the answer to addressing this skills gap is to use the centuries-old apprenticeship training system that combines on-the-job learning with formal classroom instruction to train workers for today’s more complicated, technical jobs.

Employers use apprenticeship programs to recruit, train and retain a more highly skilled, diverse and inclusive workforce that suits their business needs. For their part, apprentices earn livable wages that increase with training while they learn and practice related skills and workplace safety. When they complete their apprenticeships, workers are given a nationally recognized certification attesting to their mastery of skills, just as college graduates receive diplomas.

Today, nearly 200 active registered apprenticeship programs in high-growth, high-demand industries, such as advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, utilities and transportation, are training apprentices in Minnesota. The programs have more than 11,250 registered apprentices, including more women, minorities and veterans than ever before. Each program offers apprentices a clear career path from unskilled learner to expert craftsperson.

Click here to read Ken Peterson’s complete article on the Red Lake Nation News website. 

​How Apple, Salesforce and Other “Platform” Companies Can Help Close the Skills Gap

The rise of the knowledge economy is driving a tectonic shift in the nature of work—and in the education ecosystem that prepares learners for their careers. Old and new players are rethinking how, what and where people learn, and, in particular, how to master the digital skills that are increasingly vital to jobs in a widening swathe of industries.

But there is a disconnect between the skills that students are being taught and those that employers require, and we face the stark prospect that one-third of jobs in 2020 will require skills that aren’t common today. For learners to qualify for work that pays well and for companies to source the talent they need, the market around skills-based education needs to evolve quickly to train students in the technology platforms now required for the jobs they seek.

Click here to read Allison Dulin Salisbury, Danielle Landrein and Kathy Qu’s complete article published on the EdSurge website. 

Getting Smart About Skills Transfer Could Solve the Skills Gap

A poor understanding of how job skills transfer among occupations—especially from occupations in decline to in-demand fields—is one of the biggest reasons for the nation’s skills gap. But employers and job seekers can identify similar skills for different jobs with tools that help recruiters expand their searches for qualified applicants and help workers move across occupations and industries.

“Most organizations haven’t quantified the skills they’re seeking, so if I haven’t articulated what I’m looking for, it becomes harder for me to look at a skill someone may have used in a different industry and see how that translates to the job I’m trying to fill,” said Mike Knapp, CEO and co-founder of SkillSmart, a job placement platform that connects employers, job seekers and educational partners to help close skills gaps. “Added to that, people haven’t quantified their own skills from previous jobs, so even if I knew what I’m looking for, how would I know that person had those skills?”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is one place to start. O*NET is a continually updated database containing hundreds of distinguishing characteristics for almost 1,000 jobs across the U.S. economy. The information includes:

  • The knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to perform each job.
  • Occupational interests and work styles associated with each job.
  • Tasks and activities that make up job duties within each occupation.

Click here to read Roy Maurer’s complete article published on the Society for Human Resource Management website. 

It’s No Longer ‘College Or Bust’

Economists warn of a troubling, growing divide between two segments in the U.S.: those who will benefit from and be a part of the emerging global economy, and the many more who will not.

Workers who have the education and training in key technical and interpersonal skills will secure the increasing number of non-routine high- and middle-skill jobs in areas such as health care and personalized medicine; financial management; social media; computer science; robotics; artificial intelligence; wind and solar power; and advanced manufacturing. The greater numbers of those lacking this education and training will lose out, competing for an ever-diminishing number of routine middle- or low-skill jobs, or remaining unemployed.

The impacts of this divide are all around us. A record six million jobs in the U.S. are unfilled due to this growing skills gap. For the first time in history, younger generations, beginning with millennials, are earning less than their parents. In particular, younger males — who complete higher education at lower rates and gravitate toward low-skill industries, such as construction and manufacturing — are faring worse, with higher rates of unemployment and lower earnings than younger women.

Too often, only one solution is seen: more young adults going to college. Parents, teachers and high school guidance counselors direct students to set their sights on a college degree. Policy and higher education leaders repeat the same call. In a recent opinion piece for the Boston Globe, Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard University, urges us as a nation to “raise the percentage of Americans with degrees.”

Click here to read Jacob Murray’s complete article published on the wbur website.

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