Youth unemployment is a worldwide problem, reports The Economist in Generation jobless. Yet many employers in countries from the U.S. to Morocco say they can’t find entry-level workers with the right skills.
Poor basic education is only part of the problem.
Countries with the lowest youth jobless rates have a close relationship between education and work. Germany has a long tradition of high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships, which in recent years have helped it reduce youth unemployment despite only modest growth.
Countries with high youth unemployment are short of such links. In France few high-school leavers have any real experience of work. In north Africa universities focus on preparing their students to fill civil-service jobs even as companies complain about the shortage of technical skills. The unemployment rate in Morocco is five times as high for graduates as it is for people with only a primary education.
Employers do much less training on the job.
Many countries are trying to improve vocational schools and develop apprenticeships, reports The Economist.
In 2010 South Korea created a network of vocational “meister” schools—from the German for “master craftsman”—to reduce the country’s shortage of machine operators and plumbers. . . . In Britain some further-education colleges are embracing the principle that the best way to learn is to do: North Hertfordshire College has launched a business venture with Fit4less, a low-cost gym. Bluegrass College in Kentucky and Toyota have created a replica of a car factory, where workers and students go to classes together.
Bluegrass is a community and technical college, so job training is part of the mission. Many community colleges work closely with employers on workforce development.
Via Meadia has more thoughts on practical vs. academic education.
High schools should put “our kids on a path to a good job,” said President Obama in the State of the Union speech.
Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.
. . . Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.
Many high schools offer “dual enrollment” courses that let students earn college credits — usually through a local community college — while completing high school. Moving to a German-style apprenticeship system, which explicitly prepares students for skilled jobs, not for higher education, will take a lot more than money. It will take a major attitude change from college for all to competency for all. (Competency for most?) President Obama, whose administration cut funds for career tech programs, could lead the way.
Despite high unemployment, some 600,000 jobs in advanced manufacturing and other high-tech fields are unfilled for lack of qualified workers, testified Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Chicago is trying to fill the skills gap.
Five high schools in the Chicago Public Schools district, including Corliss High School, Chicago Vocational Career Academy, and Lake View High School, began offering career-training tracks in September. The vocational programs are aligned with the needs of area businesses such as IBM, Motorola, and Verizon, which each partnered with a school to design alternative curricula, according to the CPS Website.
. . . Students enrolled in the program can earn a technical certification and credit toward an associate degree from City Colleges of Chicago, along with a high school diploma.
Two-year technical pathways can lead to lucrative careers, notes U.S. News. “Electrical engineering technicians earn a median salary of about $56,000 with an associate degree, and the median pay for nuclear technicians is roughly $68,000 with an associate’s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Radiology technicians also earn high salaries with a two-year degree.
Apprenticeships are making a come back – and not just in trade union jobs –but only a third of today’s apprentices are community college students. Apprenticeship has spread from construction trades to “skilled occupations such as computer operator, machinist, dental laboratory technician, tool and dye maker, electronic technician” and more, reports Community College Times.
In Switzerland, Austria and Germany, apprenticeships provide training for more than half of young people. There and elsewhere, apprenticeships have been grown to include information technology, finance, advanced manufacturing, and maritime occupations. Germany has the oldest and best-known apprenticeship system. It offers programs leading to recognized qualifications in about 350 different occupations.
In the U.S., “apprenticeship programs offer an array of advantages over pure postsecondary education programs,” concludes a Center for American Progress report by economist Robert I. Lerman.
“Since apprenticeship openings depend on employer demand, mismatches between skills taught and supplied and skills demanded in the work place are unusual. Apprenticeships provide workers with a full salary so that participants can earn while they acquire valued skills. Apprentices learn in the context of real work settings and attain not only occupational skills but other work-related skills, including communication, problem solving, allocating resources, and dealing with supervisors and a diverse set of coworkers.”
Community colleges can provide the academic instruction apprentices need, while employers provide the occupational training and workplace skills, Lerman writes.
Some community colleges are “slow to develop new courses that are required as new programs or new technologies in existing programs arise,” reports Community College Times. But there are a growing number of successful apprenticeship programs.
In Washington State, more than 200 students are learning the ironworking trade through apprenticeships run by the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, a state-funded partnership among community colleges, industry and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The programs supply workers for Boeing Corp., the state’s largest employer.
South Carolina locates its major apprenticeship initiative, Apprenticeship Carolina, at its 16 technical colleges. The state-funded system is growing fast; since July 2007, the number of registered apprenticeship programs in South Carolina has grown from 90 to 230. All 16 of the state’s technical colleges are participating in apprenticeship programs.
The Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship program was started in the 1990s and has matured into the nation’s largest apprenticeship opportunity for high school students. Under the two-year program, high school juniors and seniors complete up to 900 hours of work-based learning and related courses. Many also earn college credits, and 70 percent go on to higher education.
Apprenticeship could be used to prepare young people for the growing number of “middle-skill jobs” that require some postsecondary training but not a bachelor’s degree.
Richard Rosendale, chef at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, hopes to be the first American to win the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition in France, reports the Washington Post. Rosendale and chefs from around the world will compete Jan. 30 “in the world’s most challenging and prestigious culinary competition,” which is held every two years in Lyon, France. French and Norwegian chefs have dominated the competition.
In an age when many aspiring young chefs head to the Culinary Institute of America, Rosendale enrolled in the culinary program at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pa. He earned his associate degree and entered the Greenbrier’s apprenticeship program, the one he now oversees. This led to apprenticeships with several certified master chefs, training in Europe and sous-vide training at the French Laundry.
Rosendale’s rise shows that “college” can mean real-world vocational training, writes Ben Wildavsky on The Quick and the Ed.
The current requirements for the degree Rosendale earned include not only baking, beverage management, and so forth, but also college writing, microcomputer concepts, social science or math, and more. Students also work many hours as apprentices in restaurants, hotels, or resorts. This culinary arts program . . . combines practical classroom instruction, an out-of-the-classroom apprenticeship, and classes that focus on some core skills that could prove useful to students in many settings.
It’s not that “too many” Americans go to college, writes Wildavsky. “College” broadly defined — job training as well as Plato — can benefit many more people.
Apprenticeships are making a comeback, often linked to community college classes, according to the Hechinger Report.
In Tacoma, Jesica Bush earns nearly $25 an hour as an apprentice iron worker while taking classes at Bates Technical College. In three years, she’ll earn a journeyman’s card and an associate degree. A seventh-grade drop-out, she completed her GED while serving a prison term for armed robbery,
A state-funded partnership among community colleges, industry and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is turning out skilled workers needed by Boeing and the rest of Seattle’s aerospace industry. Ironworkers are needed to help build a $4 billion replacement for the floating 520 Bridge over Lake Washington.
Higher education, advocates say, can not only provide these newly minted workers with the critical-thinking skills they need for today’s jobs, but also leave them better prepared and more appealing to employers the next time things get tough.
. . . Machinists these days have to operate sophisticated, computer-numerical-controlled equipment like the $3 million Makino vertical machining center that Seattle apprentice Irwin Downes has learned to run at JWD Machine in Fife, Wash. The company sent Downes and two other apprentices to Ohio to learn how to run the super lathe, which can cut titanium parts on several axes at once under high heat and jet sprays. Now the three are teaching the factory’s other 42 machinists how to use the time-saving machine to make critical parts for the aerospace industry.
Downes, who is 24, also spends four hours in class one night a week at Bates Technical College. “I knew my feeds and speeds for cutting aluminum, but why is it that way?” says Downes, who previously worked in a Chinese fast-food restaurant for a year after high school. “At Bates, they break it down into a math formula and show us where the numbers come from.”
Ironworker apprentices spend 11 months on the job, often doing hard physical labor, and one month taking 6:30 a.m.-to-3:30 p.m. classes at Bates during their four-year apprenticeships. In classes, they learn to follow codes and blueprints.
The skilled workforce is aging: Half of Boeing engineers are eligible to retire by 2015, and two-thirds of the company’s entire workforce is within a decade of retirement age.
Despite high demand and high wages, young people don’t want to enter the trades unless they can earn a college degree, says Laura Hopkins, the program’s executive director. “We have to convince their counselors and teachers and parents as well that this is a good career opportunity for them and that if the economy shifts and their industry goes down, they can move on to something else with that college degree.”
Angel Gavidia worked low-skills jobs. He tried community college, but dropped out after a year. Then he discovered a learn-and-earn partnership linking an IT-services company called Atrion with classes at Community College of Rhode Island, reports Jon Marcus of Hechinger Report.
The year-long program, in which Gavidia was paid to work as an apprentice at Atrion while taking on-campus courses in networking and other IT subjects, gave him the kind of real-world skills employers say they want but often can’t find in college graduates.
Gavidia, who now works full-time at Atrion as an associate engineer, says it was the apprenticeship part of the program that taught him not just theoretical knowledge, but skills he could actually use on the job. “I came into this position feeling like, we didn’t learn this in school, and we should have,” he said.
Community colleges have a long history of job training partnerships with employers, but universities are slow to adapt to employers’ needs, writes Marcus.
Eduardo Padrón runs Miami Dade College, the second-largest U.S. higher-education institution with more than 174,000 students.
“What I hear from business leaders who come to us is that the universities place before them all kinds of excuses,” said Padrón, whose institution has hundreds of partnerships with business. The universities “want to take three years to put a program together, and then they have all these excuses for not doing it the right way. It’s part of a tradition that’s not changing with time,” he said.
Corporations such as Farmers Insurance Group, Dunkin’ Donuts and Walt Disney World, do their own college-level training and education. Many others partner with community colleges on workforce development.
A growing number of jobs reuire “middle skills” — a certificate or associate degree, but not a bachelor’s degree. ”Nearly half of all jobs in the U.S. now require an associate degree — a greater proportion than call for a bachelor’s degree,” reports Marcus.
However, few CEOs or policymakers attended community colleges, points out Karen Elzey, director of Skills for America’s Future. “They’re four-year grads. All the people they know are four-year grads. They don’t have experience with community colleges.”
Community colleges, occupational certificate programs and apprenticeships are key parts of the campaign to improve higher education success, write policy analysts in Getting to Graduation: The Completion Agenda in Higher Education. The book calls for rethinking financial aid, remediation and funding policies to promote completion.
Editors Andrew P. Kelly, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Mark Schneider, vice president for the American Institutes for Research, discussed needed reforms in an e-mail interview with Inside Higher Ed
The growth in middle-skill jobs, particularly in fields like healthcare and information technology, means that we are going to need more workers with sub-baccalaureate credentials.
The book highlights two particular approaches to boosting sub-baccalaureate productivity. First, several states have invested in one or two-year occupational certificate programs that have shown promising results. For instance, Tennessee’s Technology Centers boast high completion rates, low costs-per-degree, and strong labor market returns, providing the state with a high return on its investment.
. . . Second, federal and state governments should expand formal apprenticeship programs, where students learn on the job and complete academic coursework, all while earning a wage from a participating employer.
Community college leaders can’t just wait for public funding to return, Schneider and Kelly write. They must look for changes that will improve productivity.
It is important to remember that although community colleges are cheap for consumers, they can be expensive for taxpayers. High rates of remediation and student attrition often translate to high costs per student outcome.
Adding student success initiatives to the existing structure won’t be effective, they argue. Entrepreneurial community college leaders are asking:
How can colleges shift some of their instruction from brick and mortar classrooms into quality online models that lower costs and build capacity? How can they leverage a competency-based approach to reduce the time and money spent on remediation?
. . . tweaks to student aid programs, more articulation agreements and even replication of particular “disruptive” innovations will not be sufficient to achieve new goals.
State and federal policies should “encourage providers — new and established, public, nonprofit or for-profit — to compete with one another on the value they deliver to their students,” Kelly and Schneider conclude. “If we wish to make dramatic improvements in student success and productivity, policies should cultivate a market that rewards those things.”
Young male apprentices earn 2 percent more than community college graduates, according to Canadian researchers, reports The Globe and Mail.
The first study, by University of Toronto professors Morley Gunderson and Harry Krashinsky, found male apprentices earn 24 per cent more than those with just a high-school diploma, 15-per-cent more than those with other trades and 2-per-cent more than college graduates.
It’s a different picture for women, though. Doing an apprenticeship yields lower returns then just completing high school and “substantially” lower returns than completing community college — likely reflecting that female apprenticeships tend to be in low-wage jobs in industries like food and personal service such as hairdressing, the analysis said.
Women who apprentice in traditionally male-dominated trades see a larger earnings premium than male apprentices, the second study found.
Community colleges are developing learn-while-you-earn apprenticeships that are customized to employers’ needs, reports Community College Times. The American Association of Community Colleges‘ Workforce Development Institute discussed college-based apprenticeships at a recent meeting.
In South Carolina, Midlands Technical College (MTC) has worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield to design training that will turn college graduates into network support technicians, web systems programmers and web systems analysts with industry-specific skills. The state’s Apprenticeship Carolina program lets companies can claim a $1,000 annual tax credit for each apprentice.
In Texas, the new Engineering and Manufacturing Institute at the Lone Star College System’s Corporate College trains employees in the oil and gas, alternative energy and automated manufacturing industries. Workers may participate in training for two to four years, while working.
The Employ Florida Banner Center for Advanced Manufacturing at Polk State Corporate College (PSCC) supports training and apprenticeship programs.
. . . the Mosaic fertilizer company turned to the Banner Center to train new multi-skilled maintenance workers to offset an impending wave of retiring employees.
“They couldn’t find enough qualified people, so we worked with them to create an apprenticeship program,” said Eric Roe, director of applied technology at PSCC.
Apprentices take competency-based training courses at the center twice a week for two years, while spending three days a week in the field for on-the-job training. There are two cohorts, one in electrical instrumentation and automation and one in mechanic/millwright skills with 16 students in each group.
Apprentices earn a series of credentials, plus up to 15 college credit hours. The credits make it easier for workers to go on to earn an associate degree.<
Employers complain they can’t find skilled workers, but they’re demanding too much and refusing to train new workers, Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources.
To get America’s job engine revving again, companies need to stop pinning so much of the blame on our nation’s education system. They need to drop the idea of finding perfect candidates and look for people who could do the job with a bit of training and practice.
Half of employers surveyed by Manpower say they have difficulty finding skilled workers. That’s because they want experienced workers with exactly the right skill set, Cappelli writes.
Notice the shortage of skilled tradesmen, sales reps, drivers, admins and machinists on the Manpower survey. These are jobs that typically don’t require bachelor’s degree.
Employers should work with colleges to ensure that job candidates developed needed skills, Cappelli writes.
Community colleges in many states, especially North Carolina, have proved to be good partners with employers by tailoring very applied course work to the specific needs of the employer.
Candidates qualify to be hired once they complete the courses—which they pay for themselves, at least in part. For instance, a manufacturer might require that prospective job candidates first pass a course on quality control or using certain machine tools.
Employers also can create apprenticeships, when possible, or longer probationary periods for novices to get up to speed, he suggests.
In Capelli’s follow-up — he got tons of mail — he concedes there’s a shortage of information technology graduates with skills in mobile devices and data mining. That’s because students choosing majors four years ago didn’t anticipate the mobile boom. “We cannot expect schools and students to guess what skills employers will need,” Cappelli writes. “Employers have to do more.”