New ways to build skills, careers

We must “re-think, re-design and re-connect” career education, argues “New Approaches to Acquiring Skills and Building Careers in a 21st Century Global Job Market” by Mitch Rosin, editorial director at McGraw-Hill Education, and Barbara Bolin, president of the National Organization for Career Credentialing.

The stigma against vocational education has lead to a 70 percent decrease in federal funding for workforce development from 1994 to 2010, the authors write. Yet the percentage of jobs described as “skilled” continues to increase, rising from 15 percent of all jobs in the 1950s to 85 percent of jobs today. In a recent survey, 61 percent of employers report being unable to fill many job openings because of poor applicant skills, notes Bolin.

The Obama administration is funding the Community College and Career Training Grant Program and trying to connect local employers with community colleges. However, community colleges aren’t prepared to handle the increasing demand for low-cost education and job training.

The report recommends:

  • Sector-based job training programs (sometimes called bridge programs) that focus on training applicants for particular industries while stressing both academic and career education;
  • The Career Readiness Certificate, a standardized  skills credential that is universally recognized, portable, and transferable between industry sectors; when combined with an academic credential such as a high school diploma or GED, it provides a foundation upon which people can build their careers;
  • Reinvention of the GED test to become more standardized and academically rigorous;
  • A greater investment in community colleges to expand enrollment and enhance resources and infrastructure; and
  • Providing greater access to online learning and resources that benefit adult learners and have shown to increase the number of U.S. job-seekers with GED credentials, post-secondary degrees and other professional credentials.
  • The report also recommends tools to help job-seekers decide on their career paths, such as McGraw-Hill Education’s Contemporary Workforce Connects, which “helps learners acquire the specific skills they need to qualify for specific jobs.”