‘Earn and learn’ to close the skills gap

While millions of Americans seek work, half of employers say they can’t find qualified workers, write John Bridgeland and Jessica Milano of Civic Enterprises in the Huffington Post.

Today, America has only 45 million workers who have the training and skills to fill 97 million jobs that require some post-secondary education. . . . At the same time, the nation has more than 100 million candidates for only 61 million low-skill, low-wage positions.

The U.S. needs “high skill” and “middle skill” workers, they write. While 33 percent of jobs will require a bachelor’s degree by the end of this decade, another 30 percent will require a two-year degree or certificate.

Businesses and colleges need to create more “earn and learn” opportunities for students.

More than 80 percent of college leaders and 60 percent of college dropouts identified financial pressures such as needing to work as a major challenge to students completing their degrees. Compounding this challenge is that oftentimes the work students do outside the classroom to pay the bills has little relevance to the degrees for which they are studying, and so rather than enhancing their studies and increasing their motivation to finish their degree, it often becomes a competing priority for their time.

If employers want colleges to produce skilled workers, they’ll have to provide internships, apprenticeships or cooperative learning experiences.

Across the Great Divide, a new report by Civic Enterprises and Corporate Voices for Working Families calls for more attention to the value of two-year degrees and job-specific credentials.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON April 4, 2011

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