Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Workforce Convergence

"The emerging model integrates educational reform and economic development in new and more powerful ways than ever before -- a strategy that can be termed "convergence."

Dennis McGrath, Convergence as a Strategy and Model: Linking P-16 Education Reform and Economic Development, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, 2008.

The next President may well have to do something meaningful about the skill shortages in particular industries and the economic woes of specific regions, not to speak of the need for workers to move up. This focus on good jobs and education and skills development may end up higher on the list of priorities than campaign rhetoric suggests at this point.

An overarching challenge in addressing these issues is that there is no one system in charge. In fact, I have described the workforce world as being made up of "multiple non systems" in Workforce Development Politics.

Workforce has willingly taken the budget axe under President Bush,so money is a problem, especially for adult education. But an equally pressing challenge is how the feds can incentivize the kind of "convergence" McGrath is talking about. Other words and concepts have evolved to describe these "partnerships on steriods:" sector or workforce partnerships, workforce intermediaries, career pathways, and,most ambitiously, "civic revolutionaries. See my: Workforce Intermediaries for the 21st Century and Nonprofit Leadership.

The point is that on the ground we need to bring together multiple stakeholders, including business, in a focused and durable way around an ambitious set of visionary results. Increasingly, community colleges are seen as a center of gravity for these partnerships, but many other actors are key, especially when we try to link up with K-12 and economic development.

So, we need some new ideas. The Workforce Investment Act (WIA), still unauthorized, is in its death throes. The question is how can the feds support local/regional creativity and convergence. I suspect that parts of answer are to be found in current state and local efforts.

No comments: