#3. The business of education (is education)
"Lately we have been told again and again that our educators are not
preparing American youth to be efficient workers. Workers. That language is so common
among us now that an extraterrestrial might think we had actually lost the Cold War.”
Marilynn Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books
Again, something fundamental has changed over the past few years. Business now asserts what it needs—and is creating relationships with school districts and community colleges, and some universities as well, that leads educators to respond to those needs. In a way that alters the mission of our schools.
What I find most surprising, in studying our current focus, or obsession, to prepare students for the workforce, is how needy business seems to be. Hence the new push on education to get on board.
Jamie Dimon, chair and CEO of J.P. Morgan, and Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, advocate for New Skills for Youth and career-pathway programs in a full-page advertisement. It is titled “Tackling the Youth Unemployment Crisis.” Appealing, yes? But are these passages about the crisis for youth - or for business? (Bold throughout mine.)
“Educators need to better align what they teach with the skills employers desperately need.”
“… we need to make greater investments in career-focused education program that are aligned with the needs of emerging industries. Programs focused on jobs like robotics, medical science and coding – the skills that employers desperately need.”
Who knew that J.P. Morgan and the business community were so desperate? So needy?
Business leaders in Colorado make the same point. A booming economy—but “a desperate need.”
“Colorado Unveils $9.5M Youth Apprenticeship Program,”[i]
by Jenny Brundin, Colorado Public Radio, Sept. 14, 2016
A Letter from Gov. Hickenlooper
“Colorado has the best economy in the country (U.S. News & World Report) and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. At the same time we have thousands of jobs that go unfilled every week…. Colorado employers here identified a lack of qualified candidates ‘with the right skills’ as the primary reason or not filling hundreds of middle skill positions.” (Spring, 2017)
Colorado’s Swiss Apprenticeship Model[ii]
“A 'Crying Need' In Colorado”
Right now, Colorado has an estimated 25,000 weekly job vacancies in high-growth industries that go unfilled because of a lack of skilled workers. Seventy percent of Colorado adults are not from here – they are transplants from out of state….
"The path to economic mobility, the likes of which the world rarely sees, is not for every student to go to a four-year liberal arts college," said Kent Thiry, chairman and CEO of DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc., which hosted the event. "In fact, there’s a desperate need, a crying need, on both the supply side for more focused programs, more applied programs, more vocational programs."
What to do? “Train” high school students (just don’t call it vocational education!)
Help wanted: American manufacturing competitiveness and the looming skills gap[iii]
“A skills gap is the US manufacturing sector’s Achilles’ heel, with nearly 3.5 million jobs at stake over the next decade. It is no longer a short-term issue of filling current hard-to-fill open positions, or one that can reasonably be expected to be solved in time by government policy-makers.”
Deloitte Review, Jan. 26, 2015
That CPR story focused on CareerWise Colorado, an effort led by Democratic candidate and CEO of Intertech Plastics Noel Ginsburg, with strong backing from Gov. Hickenlooper. It borrows from the Swiss model, following a 2016 visit by Hickenlooper and business leaders to Switzerland.[iv] The goal for Colorado: “20,000 students will be apprentices by 2027.” (More on CareerWise in AV #175.)
Ginsburg expressed The Need this way: “Currently Colorado has an estimated 25,000 weekly job vacancies in high-growth industries that go unfilled because of a lack of skilled workers, costing the state over $300 million in lost GDP.”[v] A key rationale, it appears, for his initiative, CareerWise.
Chalkbeat Colorado also spoke to The Need.
“A youth apprenticeship program set to launch next fall aims to connect 250 Colorado high school students* with paid job training in its first year, providing students with an immediate path to middle-income jobs and helping businesses cultivate the skilled workers they need.”[vii]
(*In fact, as CareerWise told me in an email this week, it has 103 students in the program this year.)
New law says students must be told about
skilled labor, military careers
“… a 2015 Deloitte survey of manufacturing executives found eight in 10 said the expanding skills gap will affect their ability to keep up with customer demand, and that it took an average of more than three months to recruit skilled laborers."[vi] The Denver Post
National stories on Colorado have made the same point.
“Can Apprenticeships Pave the Way to a Better Economic Future?” Education Week, Sept. 26, 2017[viii]
Colorado leaders are painfully aware that they need to find skilled workers to fill thousands of jobs. And they're betting big on their new secret weapon: an apprenticeship program for high school students….
“… put businesses in the driver's seat, using their needs as a starting point.”
"We literally have tens of thousands of jobs every week that go unfilled," said Ellen Golombek, the executive director of Colorado's labor and employment department, which helped shape the apprenticeship program. "We're taking a look at the entire work-based-learning spectrum to train, retrain, and 'upskill' the workforce to meet our current and projected needs."…
With the Swiss system as a model, Colorado began planning its program as a way to keep students in the school pipeline, set them up for good jobs, and serve industry's need for a skilled workforce. It decided to put businesses in the driver's seat, using their needs as a starting point.
If apprenticeships represent how K-12 education is expected to respond to the needs of business, colleges, too, face similar pressures. “A Gallup poll conducted for the Lumina Foundation, which promotes increased access to higher education, found that just 11 percent of business leaders said they were getting the skills they needed from the college graduates they hire overall.”[ix] We now read of “how colleges can modify their curricula and industry certifications to better meet manufacturers' hiring needs.”[x] Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution, states: “Colleges … have their ear to the ground, they’re listening to local employers and paying attention to what they need.”[xi]
“Despite doom-and-gloom pronouncements on the decline of U.S. manufacturing, the sector is actually experiencing a shortage of qualified knowledge workers—to the tune of 2 million advanced manufacturing jobs expected to go unfilled in the next decade. Machines may have replaced the routine tasks once accomplished by the hands of men, but competent workers are needed to run the machines. And there simply aren’t enough laborers today, creating a yawning skills gap.”
David Bass, Philanthropy Magazine, Review of Men Without Work, Winter 2017
A bipartisan push – both parties nudge education to help business in its hour of “need”
“It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue to say we want better jobs for our kids, or we want to make sure they’re trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming or beginning to appear…. We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at all kinds of internships.”[xii]
Gov. John Hickenlooper, Face the Nation, August 8, 2017.
Our needy business community has convinced both parties, a remarkable feat these days! Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Republican, recently set a goal to increase the internships and apprenticeships in Oklahoma to “to help address the state's workforce shortage. The Earn & Learn Oklahoma initiative will benefit both workers and employers who cannot find the skilled people they need, Fallin said.”[xiii]
In Texas, a Democrat leads a similar effort for (not my term!) that “license-certificate-tradesman space.”
“Growing number of states embrace career education,” Education Week, Oct. 4, 2017[xiv]
In Texas, a new law requires education officials to collaborate with the state's higher education and workforce departments to develop and post on their websites an "inventory" of certifications and credentials students can earn that reflect workforce needs and offer routes to middle- and high-skill jobs.
State Rep. Eddie Lucio (Dem), who co-sponsored the Texas legislation, said he hopes schools will use the inventory to develop coursework for in-demand careers and to advise students about opportunities. Most good jobs in Texas demand postsecondary certificates, licenses, or degrees, but only 20 percent of high school graduates in the state have them, he said.
"We are providing 20th-century education in a 21st-century market," said Lucio. "The biggest opportunity we see in Texas is that technical space, that license-certificate-tradesman space. … We want to be able to tell employers we have the skilled workers they need.”
CEOs See Apprenticeships as Wave of Future
for Workforce Skills[xv]
“‘We need to truly remove the unnecessary firewall between government and schools, and government and business,’ said Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman Corp. and chair of the Business Roundtable’s education and workforce committee.” EdWeek Market Brief, June 7, 2017
That article gave similar examples from Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee, and Virginia. Last year, 46 states and the District of Columbia took action to boost career technical education with nearly 150 new policies to provide more funding, expand innovative employer partnerships, and strengthen programs that provide college-level credit in high school.”[xvi]
(For more examples of the shortage of skilled workers and of 'schools not delivering what is needed,' see the Addendum.)
Advocates must rejoice to hear this same bipartisan message from Washington. Near the end of his seven years as the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan seemed ready to embrace this new purpose for education.
“Arne Duncan Pinpoints Where Schools Fail,” [xvii] The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 23, 2015
“The departing secretary of education says students
aren’t getting the education the U.S. economy needs them to have”
Before the interview, the WSJ opened with this background:
WSJ asked: “What is the biggest undone item to better align the education system with the needs of the labor market?” Duncan might have challenged the assumption in that question—as Another View aims to do in this series. His response was more thoughtful than this excerpt suggests, but Duncan did say:
“… we need folks at every level who are willing to fight not on small-ball stuff, not on sound bites, but on, ‘Are we educating our way to a better economy?’”
Given the diminished prestige of our current Secretary of Education, and her lack of credibility when she speaks about the future of work in America[xviii], instead we look to the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, to gauge this administration’s view of how schools can serve the marketplace.
“Labor secretary Acosta: Trump still loves apprenticeships,”[xix] The Washington Examiner, Nov. 29, 2017
“Trump’s Non-Celebrity Apprentices,” WSJ, 6/18/17(xx)
“One restraint on economic growth is the increasing U.S. labor shortage, especially for jobs that require technical skills. Meanwhile, many college grads are underemployed and burdened by student debt. The Trump Administration is trying to address both problems by rethinking the government’s educational priorities. …
“Another problem is that few colleges and high schools teach vocational skills. The Labor Department Jolts survey of national job openings found more than six million in April—the most since Jolts began tracking in 2000. The vacancies include 203,000 in construction, 359,000 in manufacturing and 1.1 million in health care.”
Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wisconsin
"Apprenticeships are a major priority for President Trump and the Department of Labor. We have made a strong commitment to increasing the number of quality apprenticeships, including expansion into high-growth, emerging sectors where apprentice-ships have historically been rare," Acosta said in a speech at the G-20 Labor and Employment Ministers' Meeting. “… In the last several months, CEO after CEO has told me that they are eager to fill their vacancies, but they cannot find workers with the right skills.”
In short, the labor market and the economy are needy, and education must respond. Educators have no illusions as to who has greater clout in America. I just had not realized, until doing this study, that it had become the duty of public education to help our troubled business community.
Troubled, impatient, and needy. And yes, bossy enough to decide it can no longer be just a partner and adopt a school, donate computers, or volunteer with Junior Achievement for an hour a week for five weeks[xxi] to help our young entrepreneurs. No reason to wait around; the business community will change education.
Next week: how it is changing the mission of community colleges in Colorado.
More on the shortage of skilled workers and of 'schools not delivering what is needed'
More on the shortage of skilled workers and of 'schools not delivering what is needed'
Aurora Sentinel – “National small business chief says Trump government big on training”[xxii] - 2017
After her stop at Stanley Marketplace, (US Small Business Administration chief) Linda McMahon was slated for a roundtable meeting with other business owners. “In that setting I hear more about tax reform, regulatory reform, high costs of health care and the labor shortage, which is becoming more and more of a thing,” she said.
That labor shortage goes beyond the “skilled labor” shortage that many sectors have long complained about, she said. Today, business owners are often worried about finding a workforce in general, regardless of their specific skill set.
EdWeek Market Brief – “CEOs See Apprenticeships as Wave of Future for Workforce Skills”[xxiii] – 2017
“Adding an apprenticeship approach to K-12 and higher education can help close the massive skills gap in the U.S., according to a panel of CEOs, two U.S. senators and a Trump administration official, in a discussion sponsored by the Business Roundtable here today.
“Companies in a survey by the organization are spending $4.5 billion annually to tackle the skills gap, according to a report released today by the group. A companion publication released by the roundtable detailed specific approaches and projects undertaken by 64 major corporations to address the shortage of workers with skills to fill jobs in different industries.”
The Global Achievement Gap - Tony Wagner - 2008
“… under the auspices of the Economic Development Corporation and the Business Roundtable, a nonpartisan organization of area CEOs that provide leadership on a range of public policy issues related to business development, a group of about forty businesses, community, and education leaders began to meet … According to Gary Jacobs, the managing director of a national real estate development firm, they had a very clear idea of the skills that mattered most and knew that public schools weren’t delivering what was needed.”
The New York Times - Op-Ed, “From High School Straight to a Career,”[xxiv] 2016
“This country has good blue-collar jobs. It needs skilled workers.”
“Candidates from both parties have been talking a lot about the loss of American jobs, declining wages and the skyrocketing costs of college. But missing from the debate is the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of ‘middle skill’ jobs in the United States—or soon will be—going unfilled because of a dearth of qualified workers.” (Katherine S. Newman and Hella Winston)
Education Week, “Employers are integral to career tech programs,”[xxv] 2015
“Every January, employers in Vermilion County in eastern Illinois are asked to complete a jobs-projection survey, administered by Vermilion Advantage, a member-based organization that focuses on workforce-development needs. Core employers identify their needs two years out for both new and replacement positions. Using the data, skills training in the schools can be adapted to plug the gaps … As a result, the organization has pushed for more training and career-awareness activities in the schools related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“And in North Carolina, workforce teams last fall went on a listening tour to gather information about the job needs of 1,000 employers in 100 days. The "1,000 in 100" initiative was spearheaded by the governor's office in an effort to make sure that the training in high schools, community colleges, and universities is meeting the needs of local business.”
[iii]Deloitte Review Issue 16, byCraig A. Giffi, Ben Dollar, Bharath Gangula, Michelle Drew Rodriguez,
[xxi] https://www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-usa/volunteers - “What is the investment in time for a JA volunteer? Typically, a JA program is taught for one hour a day for a total of five days.”