Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Skill Pathways

"Professor Lerman, the American University economist, said some high school graduates would be better served by being taught how to behave and communicate in the workplace."

Jacques Steinberg, "Plan B: Skip College," The Washington Post, May 16, 2010.

Well, I think everyone, including many employers and their supervisors, could use some job readiness training. One of our findings over the years is that job readiness training helps one attach to a job (three months) but hard skills training is connected to long-run job retention.

The hoopla about community colleges and "some college" does contain a bit of misdirection -- but it remains a good aspiration. Its just that a tunnel-vision focus on this goal omits other pathways and the realities for many students and workers--pathways that we know a lot about.

What I find startling in this article that evokes "German apprenticeships" and alike is its lack of acknowledgement of union/employer apprenticeship programs -- the "other" trianing system in the U.S. There are certainly problems of who gets in and who gets out, but things were getting better until the Great Recession. And likely retirements in the near future will open up more slots. Everyone loves the CVS example, but come on!

Of course, apprenticeships have their own requirements -- some real competencies in math and reading, etc. And numerous preapprenticeship programs have grown up in the building trades that get people ready. Unfortuntely, they are not as well linked to jobs and apprenticeships as they could be.

"[S]uch alternatives...would steer some students toward intensive, short-term vocational and career training, through expanded high school programs and corporate apprenticeships."

And you could earn college credit along the way it we did things right.

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