Mitch Rosin: Bridging the Skills Gap in Today’s Economy

Jul 27, 2011 by

 

 

Ready or not, the demands on America’s workforce are changing. In 1950, unskilled positions accounted for 80 percent of U.S. jobs, but today, 85 percent of our country’s professions require skilled workers who have critical-thinking capabilities combined with career and industry specific requirements (Blodgett, 20001).

While this talent shift was occurring, however, our education system remained stagnant, and failed to include instruction in the “soft skills” needed for many of today’s professional roles as well as industry specific applied skills. High schools focus on making graduating seniors college eligible, rather than college and career ready. Not only are some high school graduates ill-prepared for the demanding jobs of our global economy, but many never move on to higher education or even complete basic secondary education. Currently, the U.S. is the only highly developed democracy where young adults are less educated than the previous generation, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that more than 18 million adults without a high school credential are in the labor force today. In short, worker supply is grossly deficient to employer demand.

What Will Help Bridge This Widening Skills Gap?

A dire need for workforce development is at hand for today’s adults who are struggling to complete basic schooling and hone the skills necessary for gainful employment in our global, multi-faceted and fast-paced economy. More and more jobs are being replaced by technology, such as McDonald’s recent move to install 7,000 automatic order takers in its European restaurants — a stark reality for what is becoming a world where any job that can be automated will, at some point, become a job of the past.

While some jobs are being replaced by technology, there are new and growing needs for other professional roles in our society. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce notes that of the 30 million new and replacement jobs to be created between now and 2018, 63 percent will require some college. These middle-skill jobs require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year college degree. They include firefighters, truck drivers, carpenters, nurses, radiation therapists, dental hygienists, radiology technicians, claims adjusters, and computer support specialists — who often earn in excess of $50,000 per year. This is great news for some, but in order to combat the reverse progress of 7,000 students dropping out of high school each day as reported by the BLS, contextual training programs are needed that foster success for those who don’t follow the “traditional” education path. This includes programs that lead to workplace and academic skills training and career certification. Consider that only 0.3 percent of the U.S. workforce currently acquires skills through an apprenticeship program, while in Austria 40 percent of 15-year-olds enter an apprentice program while in high school, making them career-ready upon graduation.

Non-Traditional Career Pathways Becoming the Norm

It may be no surprise that GED credential recipients, on average, see lower wages than those with high school diplomas, and that the latter group trails those with post-secondary education by 10 percent in earnings for every year of college completed. An emerging group, however, is acknowledging what have become non-traditional pathways, such as career readiness certificates and industry-specific certifications that are stackable, transferable, and more highly valued by employers than a high school diploma alone. The Springboard Project found that almost three-fourths of the occupations that are expected to grow over the next six years require credentials beyond a high school diploma. These students, in many cases, need to acquire transferable and transportable skills that are directly applicable in today’s workforce. And while a job that exists today may not exist tomorrow, having transferable skills means one is trainable (and workforce-pliant).

The Need for Contextualized Curricula

via Mitch Rosin: Bridging the Skills Gap in Today’s Economy.

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