7
Implications for Education and Training

Moderator David Finegold opened the panel discussion with brief introductions, inviting each panelist to offer opening remarks.

OPENING REMARKS

Economist Tom Bailey (Columbia University), explaining that he had studied the relationship between education and the workforce during the 1980s and 1990s (e.g., Berryman and Bailey, 1992), said that the discussion of the importance of social as well as technical skills in knowledge work was very similar to discussions at that time. He suggested that the workshop participants read the 1991 report of the secretary of labor’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS—U.S. Department of Labor, 1991), saying it identified the same list of important workplace skills that were discussed the previous day.

However, Bailey observed that one change since the 1990s is that, at that time, experts believed that students did learn the important workplace skills in college, and so they focused on high school and on the success of Japan and Germany in developing their workers’ mid-level technical skills.

Noting that nearly 20 years have passed since the SCANS commission identified the need for broad social, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills and that cognitively based theories of education that emphasize teaching such skills became widely accepted, Bailey asked what had happened. He described “the discovery, once again, that our workers don’t have soft skills” as “discouraging.”



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 75
7 Implications for Education and Training Moderator David Finegold opened the panel discussion with brief in- troductions, inviting each panelist to offer opening remarks. OPENING REMARKS Economist Tom Bailey (Columbia University), explaining that he had studied the relationship between education and the workforce during the 1980s and 1990s (e.g., Berryman and Bailey, 1992), said that the discus- sion of the importance of social as well as technical skills in knowledge work was very similar to discussions at that time. He suggested that the workshop participants read the 1991 report of the secretary of labor’s Com- mission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS—U.S. Department of Labor, 1991), saying it identified the same list of important workplace skills that were discussed the previous day. However, Bailey observed that one change since the 1990s is that, at that time, experts believed that students did learn the important workplace skills in college, and so they focused on high school and on the success of Japan and Germany in developing their workers’ mid-level technical skills. Noting that nearly 20 years have passed since the SCANS commission identified the need for broad social, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills and that cognitively based theories of education that emphasize teach- ing such skills became widely accepted, Bailey asked what had happened. He described “the discovery, once again, that our workers don’t have soft skills” as “discouraging.” 

OCR for page 75
 RESEARCH ON FUTURE SKILL DEMANDS Bailey said that, for the past 10 years, he has been studying community colleges, and that he is surprised to hear predictions of fewer mid-level jobs at a time when community colleges are growing. Noting that about half of all undergraduate students are enrolled in two-year institutions, he questioned whether the barbell image of the employment structure might be overblown. Bailey suggested that advancing the nation’s capacity for research, development, and innovation would require many mid-level technical support workers, as well as scientists and engineers. Observing that several speakers had expressed concerns about educational equity and access to higher education for people in the United States, he suggested that these concerns were also important from an international perspective. He said that those who fear educational improvements in competitor nations (such as China and India) sometimes fail to recognize that those nations are home to “hundreds of millions of people who are completely illiterate.” He warned that there could be a danger in “trying to motivate educational reform by economic anxiety.” Turning to the role of community colleges, he said that about one- fourth of all students transfer to four-year colleges and obtain a bachelor’s degree, and that many other students obtain associate’s degrees related to specific occupations. Bailey observed that many nurses, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians are trained in community colleges. In addition, he said, community colleges are increasing their re- cruitment of diverse students for two-year programs linked with four-year colleges to train future teachers. Following up on the earlier discussion about nursing education, Bailey noted that such programs are so expensive that community colleges often lose $3,000 to $4,000 annually for every nursing student they enroll. Addressing the difficulty of accurately forecasting future skill demands, Bailey said many community college administrators, faculty, and students have strong relationships with local companies. He suggested that “they don’t really need to have a forecast” because they had “good contact, day- to-day” with employers. Noting that immigrants are expected to comprise a rapidly growing share of the labor force, Bailey noted that many immi- grants are already attending community colleges and that community col- leges could help them develop broad skills, soft skills, as well as technical skills. Bailey’s last points focused on the challenge of “tremendous inequality” in community colleges, in both access and outcomes. He said many students do not complete two-year degrees, about 20 percent do not complete even 10 credits, and that these problems are most frequent among low-income and minority students. Bailey said researchers and policy makers do not know how to address these problems and called for studies of programs that are successful in retaining and graduating students. Finally, he ad-

OCR for page 75
 IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING dressed financial issues, noting that public community colleges receive less state funding per student than four-year colleges, yet they enroll a popula- tion with greater learning needs. Paul Osterman opened his remarks by agreeing with Cappelli that education is not the same as skill, citing the example of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s highly regarded admissions director, who had re- cently been fired for lying about her educational credentials years earlier. Expanding on the argument that employers have choices about how to organize work and pay their workers, Osterman cited a study that found that, among employees with similar levels of skills and education, the firm in which they were employed accounted for 30 to 50 percent of the varia- tion in wages (Goshen, 1991). He said that Holzer had found that, among low-wage workers with equal amounts of human capital, changing to a different firm led to a statistically significant increase in wages. In addition, he argued that firms employing many low-wage workers were less likely to provide training than other firms. Asserting that mid-level jobs would continue to be available in the future, Osterman noted that 28 percent of all jobs were filled primarily by individuals with some college in 2004, a percentage projected to remain the same in 2014 (Hecker, 2005). Osterman said that “abstract” tasks, as defined by David Autor (see Table 2-2), could be performed by individuals with mid-level skills. Referring to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projec- tions that the cluster of “professional and related” occupations will grow most quickly between 2004 and 2014, Osterman said that 40 percent of workers employed in this cluster in 2006 had less than a college degree. In terms of education and training policy, Osterman said that using the list of broad workplace skills identified by Houston as a guide might be valuable for the school system, but this approach would be “very bad policy” in the field of job training. In the past, he said, job training provid- ers would simply “imagine” what skills were needed and train people in those skills, but current best practice is based on ongoing discussions with employers. In some cases, training providers and employers jointly design the training curriculum, he said (Osterman, 2006). He said that another important aspect of current best practice involves helping employers not simply to train their employees, but also to reorga- nize work and adopt other human resource strategies in order to increase productivity and job security.1 Osterman said that large nonprofit or quasi-public firms (such as hos- pitals and banks) were more willing than other firms to respond to gov- ernment policies and programs designed to encourage training and work 1 As noted earlier, this broad approach is sometimes referred to as “moving to the high road.”

OCR for page 75
 RESEARCH ON FUTURE SKILL DEMANDS reorganization (see Osterman, 2006, for examples). But because low-wage workers employed in smaller firms would not be helped by policies that only encouraged companies to increase training and re-organize work, he said that additional policies would be required. Osterman said these poli- cies might include a higher minimum wage, increased union representation, requirements tied to economic development incentives, and other types of labor standards (Osterman, 2006). Peter McWalters, the Rhode Island commissioner of education, said he represented an education “industry” that had traditionally differenti- ated among students, so that 30 percent met high academic standards at high school graduation, 30 percent dropped out, and another 40 percent graduated without meeting academic standards. He said that this system had begun to change only in response to business concerns, leading to the current standards-based educational reform movement. McWalters said his “first battle” was to try to bring all students to a higher academic standard, so that a high school diploma represented a con- crete series of skills and types of knowledge. Saying that efforts to establish a rigorous high school exit standard aimed to change the “paradigm” of education, he observed that the current teacher workforce was not capable of such a major change. By third or fourth grade, he said, the students who read on grade level and can think conceptually are grouped together, and teachers who work with these students help them to further develop their “higher order thinking” skills. However, teachers who are assigned students in the lower groups tend to emphasize continual review. Cautioning that he was overstating the case to present a “dramatic” picture of the situation, McWalters argued that teachers and schools do not yet accept the idea that, beginning around the third grade level, they must teach reading comprehen- sion, critical analysis, and other “higher order” skills to students who do not already possess them. McWalters said that, while he had been focusing on this first battle, the workshop was leading him to realize that students also need to develop broad social and cognitive skills and the ability to apply knowledge. How- ever, he cautioned that any conversation about these other needs would inevitably focus on increasing the levels of content knowledge, because large-scale state assessments focus on knowledge, rather than on what students can do. He emphasized that he and other education officials are trying to establish high school exit standards and that they lacked good measurements for nonacademic skills. Disagreeing with Bailey, he said that cognitively based theories of education—in which teachers engage students, assess their developing understanding (or misconceptions), and “scaffold” their learning on an ongoing basis (National Research Council, 2005)—had not reached the school system. Saying that he now views the broad competencies as “hard” skills,

OCR for page 75
 IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING not “soft skills,” McWalters said he would need help in developing assess- ments of these skills and in teaching them, beginning in the early grades. Currently, he said, “the longer you are in school, the further away you get from using anything you are learning.” Reflecting on how the U.S. school system compares with that of other nations, he observed that, in Singapore, corporations, public policies, and the wider culture all support the expectation that students will perform well, regardless of gender, and in all subjects, including mathematics. He contrasted this with the United States, where the wider culture does not prevent a tenth-grade student from dropping out of high school. McWalters said he would look for similar agreement about expecta- tions and support from the policy and business communities in the United States. He recalled successful efforts with committed, supportive corporate partners, including Danny Wegman, president of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., and partners at the Kodak and CVS Corporations. He agreed with Osterman that larger firms with roots in the community are more likely to partner with him than smaller firms and also agreed with Cappelli that it would be difficult to obtain business support. McWalters concluded by repeating his commitment to graduating students prepared for work or college. He said this would require changing both sides of the current system—bringing higher academic standards to the vocational side and the workplace competencies and new assessments of these competencies to the academic side. Susan Traiman explained that she worked on education and workforce issues for the Business Roundtable, an organization of business executives focused on public policy issues affecting the economy. Noting that she had missed parts of the first day of the workshop to respond to congressional debates about immigration reform and trade, and that Congress was con- sidering policies to ensure that more Americans benefit from globalization, she said that the workshop discussions were very critical and timely. Traiman observed that the previous speakers had concluded that it is not possible to predict the future mix of occupations, but that they had a good sense of the broad competencies needed for the future workplace. She warned against an unspoken assumption that high-skill jobs would be filled by more intelligent people and low-skill jobs by those with less intelligence. This assumption, she said, might lead to the conclusion that it would be a waste of time to educate and train those whose jobs do not require the broad competencies or high levels of education. Traiman suggested that the need for skills in science, technology, engi- neering, and mathematics may be broader than the projected future demand for scientists and engineers. Referring to a study that found that 20 percent of chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies majored in engineering

OCR for page 75
0 RESEARCH ON FUTURE SKILL DEMANDS (Felicelli and Allen, 2006), she suggested that education in these areas may develop thinking and analysis skills useful across a range of jobs. Focusing on next steps, she disputed those who argued that the educa- tion system wanted only to maintain the status quo, stating that education was “constantly” going through reforms. She observed that many teachers and school administrators embraced the findings of the SCANS report in the early 1990s (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991). Schools began to empha- size the teaching of teamwork, communication, and other soft skills, with little attention to content knowledge. More recently, she said, the standards movement had placed great emphasis on content and less emphasis on soft skills. Traiman called for teaching both content and skills simultaneously, saying “we have got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.” She cautioned that few teachers in K-12 and higher education are prepared for this integrated approach. PANEL DISCUSSION Finegold asked the panelists to comment on what lessons had been learned about teaching the broad competencies since the release of the SCANS report (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991). McWalters replied that many high schools are engaging students in presentations and projects designed to develop their communication skills while also providing them opportunities to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. He suggested in- troducing these approaches at younger grades, including the critical middle school years. He said the middle school years are the most important time to integrate high expectations for skills and knowledge in “powerful wrap- around systems.” The challenge to any attempt to move beyond traditional academic content, he said, is the lack of good, easily accessible assessments. He mentioned that Vermont had introduced portfolio assessments, but dropped them after only a few years due to concerns about reliability and validity. Agreeing that the difficulty of assessing broad skills is one factor that has discouraged educators from focusing on them, Bailey said that efforts to develop common expectations for the content knowledge required for high school graduation and college entrance could present another barrier to emphasizing the skills. He said that many entering community college students with B averages in high school were required to take one or two years of remedial classes to develop the content knowledge needed for college-level course work. McWalters observed that, at the elementary school level, students are grouped for science and mathematics instruction, and weaker students spend years reviewing basic arithmetic. As a result, he said, it is not surpris- ing that some students say they hate mathematics. He said that, although

OCR for page 75
 IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING some change is under way, elementary school science instruction generally emphasizes facts, with little emphasis on the processes of science. Finegold responded that a recent National Academies study focuses on new ap- proaches to engage elementary school students in science learning (National Research Council, 2007c). GENERAL DISCUSSION Chris Wellin asked about the age of community college students and about what supports might be needed to help mid-career adults in the fu- ture, when layoffs may be more frequent. Bailey responded that, over the previous five years, the average age of the community college student had declined as the institutions attracted more young high school graduates. Nevertheless, he said, the community college population is generally older than the four-year college population. He observed that few data are avail- able about the age of students participating in the many rapidly growing noncredit classes offered by community colleges, noting that many college graduates with liberal arts degrees take these classes to obtain specific job skills. Bailey expressed concern about these data gaps, saying that infor- mation is lacking about whether noncredit classes are simply subsidizing training for local employers or about the outcomes for participants. Osterman said that there are data showing that middle-aged people who lose their jobs suffer “very substantial earnings losses.” He said there are few evaluations of dislocated worker programs, although he is aware of some successful programs that enroll adults in technical training programs at community colleges. Larry Mishel asked why, in current debates about high school reform, anyone who suggests that not everyone needs to attend college is called an “elitist.” He said he found this charge confusing, given the BLS statistics indicating that only about 24 percent of the workforce have a bachelor’s degree or higher and another 29 percent have some college (Hecker, 2005). McWalters said that, if school systems were able to graduate students with high reading comprehension and other academic skills, as well as com- munication skills, problem-solving skills, adaptability, flexibility, and the other broad competencies, he would consider those students both college- ready and work-ready. Since he cannot predict what occupations may be in demand in the future, he said, his job is to develop the most “universal” skills. Traiman said that, when reformers talk of preparing high school students graduates for college and work, this is shorthand for the real goal of preparing students for some form of postsecondary education or train- ing after high school. Bailey said that, among students in eighth grade in 1988, over three-fourths had participated in some type of postsecondary education by 1994 (U.S. Department of Education, 1998), indicating some

OCR for page 75
 RESEARCH ON FUTURE SKILL DEMANDS progress toward increased access to higher education. Ideally, he said, ef- fectively preparing young people for work should also prepare them for college, although not necessary for four-year college. Finegold, observing that many community college students enroll in general education classes in preparation for transfer to four-year colleges, suggested working with employers to more clearly define educational paths leading to mid-level occupations. He predicted that young people would respond to labor market “signals” about the potential future earnings in occupations requiring only an associate’s degree. McWalters suggested that these signals should begin in middle school. He noted that many 14- and 15-year-olds who get jobs unrelated to school would benefit from intern- ships related to possible future careers or, at the least, career exploration activities. Offering his perspective on how the education system has responded to the SCANS report, Ken Kay said that, although the report outlined skills for all students, some of the skills were quickly viewed as important only for vocational education students who would not attend college. He said that, at that time, there were no discussions clarifying that social and inter- personal, skills are important for professionals and other college-educated workers. Other broad skills, such as problem-solving and critical thinking, were viewed as important only for gifted students. Bailey agreed, reiterating his view that, during the 1990s, most people believed college students developed the broad competencies. However, he said, most college faculty lack training in teaching generally, including the teaching of problem-solving skills, communication skills, and other broad skills. Kay responded that he sees K-12 systems as more willing to explore these broad skills than higher education, which is focused on deep content knowledge in disciplinary “silos.” Traiman, noting that higher education has a powerful influence on K-12 education, said that, if leading universities were to require the broad skills in addition to academic content knowledge, high schools and high school students would respond. In response to a question about education in science, technology, en- gineering, and mathematics, Traiman said that the business community is considering marketing techniques that could be used to try to educate and excite the public about careers in these fields. In response to a question about the No Child Left Behind Act, McWalters said he supported the law’s underlying idea—that the states should make high-quality education accessible and measure their progress toward this goal with disaggregated data on different student groups. However, he said that the mechanisms for implementing the law, including the tests used as measures, are problematic. He suggested continuing the policy agenda embodied in the law in order to encourage education systems to think about accountability for helping prepare all students for college or work, but he warned that states have

OCR for page 75
 IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING not been positioned to deliver on the equity component of this agenda. He said the states are unprepared to help their urban school systems with the resources and technical assistance required to help all students succeed. Responding to a question about what problem education and training policies aim to address, Osterman responded that the problem is equity, rather than productivity or international competitiveness. He disagreed with Cappelli’s assertion that few firms provide training, stating that com- panies “do a great deal of internal training when they need to” (Osterman, 2006). Bailey agreed that equity is the most serious problem to solve, not- ing that half of the students from families in the lowest income quartile do not attend college, while almost all students from families in the highest quartile do attend college. Mary Gatta said that she had been involved in establishing a career resource center in science, technology, engineer- ing, and mathematics for 7th to 12th grade students, introducing both boys and girls to nontraditional careers, such as nursing for boys. Federal support provided under the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act allowed the center to operate without need for tuition, recruiting students from low-income neighborhoods, she said. She said that the center is an example of the possibilities for addressing the equity problem in the context of workforce development. Traiman said that equity is important, but that education and training also play a key role in enhancing U.S. international competitiveness. Christopher Sager noted that existing credentials and certifications of work readiness, such as the Equipped for the Future credential developed by the National Institute for Literacy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (University of Tennessee, 2004), considered problem-solving and the other broad skills. He suggested examining these efforts to learn more about which skills are considered important for work readiness and about how these skills are assessed. In a final comment, McWalters said it would be valuable to think about how new approaches to teaching and learning in the humanities, as well as in science and mathematics, could be used to develop communication, problem-solving, and other broad skills.