Tuesday, January 16, 2018

AV#173 - Our needy businesses call on education: Help! Workers needed!

#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. 

Yes, needy.

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:
…. Duncan has been pushing the cause of education all his career. And as he prepares to step down as education secretary after seven years, he is asking CEOs to join him in the fight.
    In today’s global marketplace, it’s critical for the U.S. to develop in young people the skills that will keep America competitive. But across the nation, says Mr. Duncan, businesses continue having trouble finding enough college graduates with those skills.

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'  

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.

[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.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

AV#172 - Business takes control of the agenda

#2.  The business of education (is education)

“…it is not going to happen unless business accepts it has to be the catalyst. It has to lead.”
Harvard business professor Joe Fuller, “Middle skills gap,” The Denver Post, Nov. 14, 2014[i]

Policy efforts right and left advance the cause of workforce development in public education, as I showed in AV#171.  When and why did this happen?  If you look back over several decades, isn’t it true that business has largely stayed on the sideline with our schools and community colleges?  Hasn’t it been, for the most part, if somewhat ineffectual, a benign influence?

It is not ineffectual today.  Business pushes an agenda.  In 2018, educators must be clear-eyed about the role some business leaders wish to play in advancing career education.  Something fundamental has changed these past few years. 

I ask you to look back at a series of articles from one year—2014.  It reveals the evolution of a new relationship between business and education.  Not an in-depth study as to why this has happened, but evidence of this change … which brings us to 2018, where business is boss. Or just damn bossy.

Three articles – 2014 – February, July, November

Not long ago most business involvement seemed constructive.  We used terms like collaboration, partnership, and cooperation. One might have even thought that educators had the upper hand.

“Business Leaders Lack Knowledge About K-12, Superintendents Say,”[ii]
by Michele Molnar, Education Week, February 18, 2014

Most school superintendents in the United States say businesses are positively influencing their districts, but it's usually in a fragmented, "checkbook philanthropy" way, rather than a transformative, systemic approach, concludes a study and a white paper released this month by Harvard Business School, The Boston Consulting Group, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Last fall, Harvard Business School and the Boston Consulting Group surveyed superintendents from the 10,000 largest districts in the United States, and 1,118 responded. The researchers found that just 3 percent of school superintendents rate business leaders as "well-informed" about public education, and 14 percent of the survey respondents say corporate leaders are actually misinformed.
Superintendents are "very reasonably demanding that business leaders learn about education, respect what educators are capable of doing, be a partner, and not be imperial, if you will," Jan W. Rivkin, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School…

Some impatience from business, to be sure.

Missed Opportunity - On the other side, business leaders are often frustrated, wishing for "more progress in our education system, but also kind of scared; they don't know what to do, so they give generously, but in a way that is fragmented and not necessarily sustained," he said.

“Frustrated.” “Scared.”  Even puzzled.

"There's a need for an alignment  between the two sectors; what we found in our work is a fundamental missed opportunity," observed Rivkin.

“Alignment.” A neutral word, or it was then.  And recommendations that sounded modest.

The findings, detailed in "Partial Credit: How America's School Superintendents See Business as a Partner," show that most administrators (81 percent) want to see even more business participation at their schools. Of those, about one-quarter would like businesses to get involved in new ways, while 74 percent are looking to sustain the same kinds of engagement.
Business Leaders' 'Playbook' - To address that wish, the three collaborators on the research concurrently released "Lasting Impact: A Business Leader's Playbook for Supporting America's Schools," which provides ideas for bridging the divide between "what educators need" and "what businesses are providing."

That winter, though, no sense that business had clarified “what schools should do.” No agenda, yet.

Winter 2014 – Colorado legislation
HB14-1013 “The use of interns”
   “Reps. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) and Mike Foote (D-Lafayette) are the sponsors of HB14-1013, which passed the Business, Labor, Economic & Workforce Development Committee this afternoon on a 6-5 vote. The bill augments the Advanced Industries Accelerator Program …  by creating incentives for private companies to offer paid internships and apprenticeships to get more Colorado high school and college graduates into the highly skilled jobs that the state’s emerging high-tech economy is producing.
   “The governor has stated that he wants to make Colorado the most business-friendly state in the nation,” Rep. Lee told the committee “Part of doing that is developing and training a qualified workforce, and one of the ways to develop and train a qualified workforce — and it’s been accepted in business and industry for decades — is the idea of the use of interns.”[iii]

July – an agenda emerging

A story in July intimated that business was still on hold.  It was up to employers to adapt—not the other way around—or that’s how I read the headline. 

           “Business must align with schools to close the skills gap,”[iv] The Denver Post, July 14, 2014

Poor alignment of American businesses with the schools that train their workers is creating a “skills gap” that may make it hard to fill as many as 650,000 technical- and science-based jobs by 2018.  The country needs a shift in how industry and educational institutions relate to each other, economists and business executives say.

Nevertheless, an agenda was emerging. As were key terms: training, skills, workforce. We began to hear more clarity, more conviction – and less fear of disrupting education, if necessary.  No hesitation about referring to students as “commodities,” or of business as “a legitimate customer.”

Harvard business school professor Joe Fuller spoke of the strained communication “between employers and educational institutions that are going to impart skills and background to potential employees…. This is why we have 12 million to 13 million unemployed people and 650,000 job openings in manufacturing right now.” 
Recent college graduates typically have only about half the skills they need in the workplace, according to John Miller, chief operating officer for Denver-based consulting firm Hands-On Learning. This forces businesses struggling to find qualified employees — in areas such as computers, mathematics, architecture, engineering, management and health care — to educate workers in-house, which is costly.

  “We really need to have universities run as businesses,” said Miller, whose company helps universities develop workforce programs. “It begins with the understanding that what they deliver to the market is a commodity: that’s a graduate.”

I will not play the innocent and say such language offends my delicate ears. But it is revealing, true?

Fuller has studied how western European countries fill jobs. Some of those countries track and test children from their early years to their teenage years, steering them into lifetime occupations for which they are deemed suited.  Fuller and Miller say such tracking would be alien to U.S. culture.

(Two years later Colorado business leaders joined Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on a visit to study the Swiss apprenticeship model, a first step toward CareerWise Colorado—a focus in AV#175. “Alien to U.S. culture” – really?  A key question is whether we are now creating a new form of “tracking.”)   

But Fuller says the educators must start talking to kids and their parents at a young age about what the children would like to do and coordinate that with business. “What we can draw (from the European experience) is to have that dialogue early to allow families to think about what their kids are actually interested in doing and having an aptitude for,” Fuller said.

Reasonable, yes?  But educators must ask if efforts like CareerWise Colorado reflect anything so simple and unassuming.  Business today is not content promoting good conversations over the family dinner.

Hands-On’s Miller said the fortunes of business and universities might also be linked by developing programs for mid-career workers. Rising costs are keeping many out of college, Miller said, and dwindling enrollment threatens the economic viability of some universities. To survive, he said, universities have to change how they operate…

“At the end of the day, industry is going to win, and it is going to lower the cost of operation if they do it effectively,” Miller said. “The schools will then migrate to a new revenue model by working with industry.”

Summer 2014 – federal legislation
  “President Barack Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law on July 22, 2014. WIOA is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. Congress passed the Act by a wide bipartisan majority; it is the first legislative reform in 15 years of the public workforce system.
  Requires States to Strategically Align Workforce Development Programs: WIOA ensures that employment and training services provided by the core programs are coordinated and complementary so that job seekers acquire skills and credentials that meet employers' needs.
·         Every state will develop and submit a four-year strategy - in the form of a single unified strategic plan for core programs - for preparing an educated and skilled workforce and meeting the workforce needs of employers.
·         State and local boards will promote the use of industry and sector partnerships to address the workforce needs of multiple employers within an industry.”
“Workforce Innovation & Opportunity-Overview”[v]


November – Business must take the lead

Later that year The Denver Post’s Howard Pankratz again spoke with Harvard’s Fuller, perhaps more alarmist by then—and more direct about who should seize the initiative:

Middle-Skills Gap[vi] - Subtitled - “Report: Business must take lead
in filling thousands of middle skill jobs.” (The Denver Post, Nov. 14, 2014)

“Basically we’ve got a wasting disease in this country,” Fuller said, explaining in an interview that the disorder manifests itself in stagnant wages for middle-skill workers and workforce participation levels that haven’t been so low since the late 1970s. “If we don’t start fighting this battle, what we are going to get is further polarization of the income spectrum, we are going to get more people out of the workforce,” Fuller said. …
“It’s not that it is hopelessly broken and we can’t hire anybody,” he added. “It can be fixed. But it is not going to happen unless business accepts it has to be the catalyst. It has to lead.”

At that, educators might have raised an eyebrow.  Was it our role, then, to follow? Fuller tried to offer this reassurance: “That doesn’t mean (businesses) should have dictatorial power, or that they should be telling educators what to do, or that governors or mayors should kowtow to business leaders.”  The Post’s summary of the report continued.

But (businesses) can bring the same rigor and discipline to sourcing middle-skills talent they historically applied to their materials supply chain. This means cultivating talent by telling educators what they need—and asking for quality control on the classes that are taught and giving the educators a lot of feedback.
Educators, on the other hand, have to accept the notion that business is a legitimate customer and must be attentive to the evolving needs of the market.

AV #171 and #172 show that in 2018 we as educators are lying to ourselves if we accept that blather about business merely being a “legitimate customer.” Next week, #173: how business is “telling educators what they need” and taking a lead role in determining what schools should “produce.”

Of course 2014 was not the turning point.  It has happened over several years.  It began with hope for stronger engagement from the business community.  But today, in these “relationships” with school districts and community colleges, and some universities as well, the balance has tipped.

As a result, educators sense their mission shifting.  Which is why we must speak up.