Carnevale: Job training creates good citizens

Community colleges’ mix of job training and academic education creates good citizens, says Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in an interview with Community College Journal excerpted in Community College Times.

. . . ours is a society based on work. Those who are not equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to get, and keep, good jobs are denied the genuine social inclusion that is the real test of full citizenship. Those denied the education required for good jobs tend to drop out of the mainstream culture, polity and economy. . . . If community college educators cannot fulfill their economic mission to help youths and adults become successful workers, they also will fail in their cultural and political missions to create good neighbors, good citizens and self-possessed individuals who can live fully in their time.

Almost a third of new job openings between 2010 and 2020 will require middle skills — more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree — Carnevale predicts. Some of these jobs pay middle-class wages: 62 percent of middle-skill jobs pay $35,000 or more per year, his research has found. Thirty-one percent of entry-level associate-degree jobs and 27 percent of jobs requiring licensure or certification pay more than entry-level BA positions.

“Before the 1980s, employers provided entry-level training to the vast majority of middle-skill workers, largely in blue-collar occupations,” Carnevale says. Now community colleges help young people “get through the door to jobs that pay.”

There is a “missing middle” between high school and four-year college, says Carnevale.

Perhaps because employers did the entry-level training for so long in the United States, the American education system has been built around the four-year bachelor’s degree. For institutional and cultural reasons, the “college is a BA” mantra continues. Students march in lockstep into four-year institutions, many without any clue of how they will attach to the labor market at the end of their four to six years. This blind homage paid to the prestigious BA job is largely responsible for the difficulty in recruiting and training workers, along with the lack of information about how viable and upwardly mobile middle-skill jobs can be.

In spite of high unemployment, “2 million jobs persistently go unfilled for want of skilled workers,” says Carnevale.