8
Final Reflections

In the final workshop session, several members of the planning committee reflected on what they had learned from the workshop and what questions remain to be addressed.

Richard Murnane opened his remarks by asking what problem led researchers and policy makers to be concerned about changing skill demands. He noted that trends in workplace skill demands have implications both for the nation’s economic growth and for social equity. Referring to the earlier debate between Harry Holzer and Peter Cappelli, he said that the implications of skills for economic growth are “complicated,” but the implications for equity are clear. Murnane reminded the audience that the real earnings of high school dropouts have fallen (Levy and Murnane, 2004) and said that the lack of labor market opportunities for dropouts help to explain high unemployment among young black men. However, he said, because the national constituency concerned about inequality is much smaller than the constituency concerned about competitiveness and economic growth, it would be useful to tie public discussions of workforce skills to the concerns about competitiveness.

Focusing on the key problem of inequality, Murnane reflected on the trend of rapid growth at the high and low ends of the labor market, asking “What is the stability of a democracy in which you have … two classes with very little mobility between them?”

Murnane said that interpersonal skills appear to be important across a wide variety of jobs, from the low-wage service occupations to the biotechnology and information technology occupations. He suggested that written communication skills, knowing how to work well with people of



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8 Final Reflections In the final workshop session, several members of the planning com- mittee reflected on what they had learned from the workshop and what questions remain to be addressed. Richard Murnane opened his remarks by asking what problem led re- searchers and policy makers to be concerned about changing skill demands. He noted that trends in workplace skill demands have implications both for the nation’s economic growth and for social equity. Referring to the earlier debate between Harry Holzer and Peter Cappelli, he said that the implica- tions of skills for economic growth are “complicated,” but the implications for equity are clear. Murnane reminded the audience that the real earnings of high school dropouts have fallen (Levy and Murnane, 2004) and said that the lack of labor market opportunities for dropouts help to explain high unemployment among young black men. However, he said, because the national constituency concerned about inequality is much smaller than the constituency concerned about competitiveness and economic growth, it would be useful to tie public discussions of workforce skills to the concerns about competitiveness. Focusing on the key problem of inequality, Murnane reflected on the trend of rapid growth at the high and low ends of the labor market, asking “What is the stability of a democracy in which you have . . . two classes with very little mobility between them?” Murnane said that interpersonal skills appear to be important across a wide variety of jobs, from the low-wage service occupations to the bio- technology and information technology occupations. He suggested that written communication skills, knowing how to work well with people of 

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 FINAL REFLECTIONS various races and cultures, and knowing how to give and receive advice constructively are essential to successful performance of jobs, because no single individual has all of the required knowledge and therefore “we rely on others.” Murnane then addressed what educators and policy makers have learned about teaching these broad skills since they were identified in the SCANS report (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991). Many school districts, he said, use curricula designed to teach not only the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also communication, analytical reasoning, and teamwork skills. He cited the Writers Workshop (Network for Instructional TV, Inc., 2003) and “hands-on” approaches to science learning as examples of such curricula. He asserted that schools have made more progress in teaching the broad competencies through innovative approaches to writing than through hands-on science, mentioning Massachusetts as an example of a state that requires students to write as part of high-stakes state tests. Murnane argued that test-based accountability tends to discourage teaching the broad skills, because they are not measured by most current state tests. More affluent suburban schools use innovative curricula to develop problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills, he said, but poor schools often focus on attaining basic content standards, using a “drill and kill pedagogy.” Murnane asked whether state science assessments mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act would slow the possibilities for developing the broad skills through hand-on science approaches. Noting that science education is potentially a “powerful method” for teaching problem-solving and communication skills (National Research Council, 2007c), he suggested further research on how to assess the broad skills (e.g., National Research Council, 2001). He noted that, although performance- based assessments are expensive, they could provide a powerful policy lever to encourage the teaching of these skills. He went on to mention that career-technical education, or CTE, has “promise” although it has not been a focus of education policy—in part because of the pressure on urban school districts to improve test scores and in part because vocational education has a “bad reputation.” Murnane noted that rigorous research using random assignment methods provides evidence of the value of career academies, a form of CTE (Kemple, 2004). He suggested thinking about CTE, not as “training people for particular narrow vocations,” but rather as a way to effectively teach teamwork and communication skills as well as content skills in algebra, writing, and other subjects. Murnane noted that, at least in principle, CTE also offers a path to community college, suggesting further examination of this educational approach. Reflecting on concerns about the cost of higher education raised by earlier speakers, Murnane said that researchers have demonstrated that

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 RESEARCH ON FUTURE SKILL DEMANDS demand for higher education is “strikingly sensitive to college costs” (Dynarski, 2005; Long, 2004). Murnane suggested further study of this topic, particularly because high costs have a much bigger impact in deter- ring college attendance among low-income students. Murnane said that he had learned from several speakers that efforts to first examine demand for skill and then think about how education and training could increase the supply of skills (the approach followed in the workshop agenda) does not work well. Stating that examining skill sup- ply and demand is not a “modular problem,” he echoed Arne Kalleberg’s earlier point that social choices affect not only the supply of skills, but also the demand for skills. He said that Peter Kemper had explained that social choices about the level of Medicaid reimbursement affect how care workers are paid, which in turn affects recruitment and retention. Reflecting on the discussions of service work, Murnane observed that the speakers had proposed two rather different arguments about the need to improve the quality and skill demands of service jobs. First, because the populations served (young children, elderly people) are weak and vulner- able, an argument can be made that “we as a society ought to care about the quality of care” that they receive. He said that, because interpersonal skills are critical to the work, it would not be possible to improve the qual- ity of care simply by making the jobs routine and increasing the monitoring of workers in a “Taylorist”1 approach. For example, he said, the O*NET database indicates that one of the most important skills for a nursing aide is “social perceptiveness—being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do” (O*NET Online, 2007). Improving the qual- ity of care might require changes in policy and practice, such as providing higher wages and better training to increase the supply of skills and create better jobs that would attract more educated, skilled workers. Murnane then reflected on another “quite different argument” about low-wage care work that had emerged at the workshop. This argument, he said, is that service jobs are of low quality with few or no benefits and that our wealthy U.S. society could afford to provide better wages and employ- ment opportunities. He said various policies had been proposed to address this problem, such as increasing the minimum wage or the earned income tax credit (Wellin, 2007b; Appelbaum, Bernhardt, and Murnane, 2003). He noted Paul Osterman’s earlier argument that, if the national government had enforced its existing labor laws over the past several decades, employ- ees in these occupations would be able to bargain for higher wages. Finally, Murnane said that it is not possible to discuss skill supply and 1 “Taylorism” refers to the management approach advocated by Frederick W. Taylor (1911), which calls for specifying job tasks, routines, and tools in detail.

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 FINAL REFLECTIONS demand in any detail without considering immigration—a factor that af- fects both low-end and high-end jobs. REFLECTIONS OF PLANNING COMMITTEE MEMBERS Cappelli agreed with Murnane that it is not useful to try to predict skill demand “with any great certainty,” but said that the workshop participants had learned a great deal about factors influencing skill demands, including employer choices about how to organize work. Given the uncertainties about future skill demands, Cappelli called for policies to create tighter linkages between education and the workplace. He noted that such policies had been discussed a decade earlier2 and are still relevant now. One key question, he said, is whether and to what extent policies should encourage the education and training system to respond to employer demands and what such policies should “ask of employers in return.” Christopher Sager said that, as an expert in measurement and the analysis of jobs, he sees two quite different problems related to future skills. First, for jobs at the upper end of the labor market, there are some technical measurement problems related to more specifically identifying skills needed in various occupations and communicating them more clearly to students and workers in other occupations. Generally, however, “that system works pretty well in our economy.” The second problem, he said, is to develop the skills required to enter the workforce, including adequate levels of oral and written communication skills, interpersonal skills, and conscientiousness. Sager argued that, because many people lack these skills and opportuni- ties to develop them, they have trouble obtaining work and may become dependent on welfare. He said it is “abundantly clear” that society needs to address this second skill demand problem. David Finegold said that, in thinking about concerns about the nation’s skill supply, an argument could be made for improving the quality of child care jobs as a strategic approach to increasing the future skill supply, in addition to the other arguments for improving the quality of service jobs that had already been advanced. He described this as a “win-win” area. Finegold said that the discussions of globalization had identified critical in- formation gaps. Flagging a “disconnect” between data Martin Kenney had presented on the large numbers of jobs being created abroad by only a few companies and other studies suggesting that globalization would have only marginal effects on national employment, he called for close monitoring of developments and further research. Finegold agreed with Cappelli that one of the most important changes 2 Forexample, the School to Work Opportunities Act of 1994 was designed to increase links between high schools and workplaces.

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 RESEARCH ON FUTURE SKILL DEMANDS in employment patterns over the past three decades has been the tendency of companies, including large corporations, to reduce or dismantle internal career ladders. Given this change and the trend toward a bifurcated dis- tribution of employment into low-level and high-level jobs, he asked how society could prepare people for corporate leadership roles. In addition, Finegold argued that companies increasingly want demonstrated experi- ence, raising questions about how young people can obtain the experience needed to be hired. He suggested examining how to create integrated sys- tems linking education and training providers with employers that would provide young people with the experiences needed to perform at higher levels once hired. Finally, Finegold commented that other panelists had not mentioned Stuart Elliott’s analysis, perhaps because its proposition that computers would take over much human work raised “scary” implications, particu- larly given the current trend toward growing income inequality. He sug- gested studying the possibilities for using computers as a tool to reduce social inequality, such as by providing online education and training to low-skilled workers and the unemployed. FINAL COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS Ken Kay suggested telling one’s children that they will need creativ- ity, problem-solving, communications and other broad skills to negotiate “multiple careers and multiple jobs.” On the negative side, he said, noting the trends toward elimination of jobs through computerization and global- ization, it may be important to tell one’s children that they will need the broad competencies as a “self-defense mechanism” in case of displacement or layoffs. Whether to accommodate voluntary job changes or survive dis- placement, he said, the broad competencies would be valuable. Finegold responded that the possibility of many dislocations and career changes over an increasingly long human life span could be viewed negatively or from a more positive perspective, as opening up different possibilities at different stages of life. He said he believed that the available data on job tenure indi- cated that, although young people in their twenties change jobs frequently, average job tenure has not greatly declined over the past several decades. Cappelli responded that average job tenure is “a confusing measure” because it includes both voluntary job changing and involuntary layoffs. He said that the average job tenure of women has increased compared with a generation ago, because women today are less likely to quit their jobs when they have families, but that this trend does not reflect an important change. In contrast, he said, “tenure for men is down . . . particularly for men over age 55,” primarily due to layoffs (Cappelli, 2007). He argued that the most important point is that employees today must manage their own careers, in

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 FINAL REFLECTIONS contrast to the “organization man” of the 1950s (Whyte, 1956) who tried to fit into roles created for him by the company. Today, Cappelli argued, the situation is “completely reversed.” Employees must learn to market themselves, and one who tries to simply fit in will have little chance of pro- motion. Cappelli cautioned against telling one’s children things about future skill demand that might be incorrect, suggesting it would be better to admit that “we don’t know.” But, he said, “the skills of managing uncertainty are probably going to be really important.” Recent college graduate and author Marcos Salazar (2006) said that the hundreds of college graduates he had interviewed for his book often reported feeling unprepared for the working world and unable to apply what they had learned in college. Based on these interviews, Salazar asserted that the transition from college to work is psychologically difficult, as the graduate moves away from friends and faces the challenge of forging a new identity as an employee. Salazar said those he interviewed reported feeling helpless and entering a phase of what he termed “post college depression.” Sager responded that, in contrast to his time in college, when most students worked, he had the impression that many current college students do not work. Finegold said that the college population is segmented, and students enrolled in two-year colleges are more likely to work, and to work a greater number of hours, than their counterparts in four-year colleges.3 He said he was curious about Salazar’s question, because “the data tell us” that most students have been working for several years by the time they graduate. Cappelli cautioned that the feeling of not being prepared for work after college graduation is not a new phenomenon, as he and another workshop participant who had been his college classmate agreed that they had both felt that way 25 years earlier. Labor economist Robert Lerman (American University) introduced a new topic, asking why no one had mentioned the National Skill Standards Board4 throughout the workshop. He suggested this is because the board developed few standards and its work was not embedded in “real recruit- ment and training practices.” Lerman said that the workshop speakers addressed the demand for broad skills and also discussed the role of com- 3 Between 1970 and 2005, the percentage of full-time college students who were employed grew from 34 to 49 percent. In 2005, 54 percent of full-time students enrolled in two-year colleges were employed, compared with 48 percent of full-time students enrolled in four-year colleges (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007a). 4 The National Skill Standards Board was created under the School to Work Opportunities Act of 1994 to engage industry, labor, and education in development of a voluntary, national system of skill standards, assessments, and certifications. Standards were created for only a few sectors (manufacturing, sales), Congress withdrew funding in 2002, and the Board ceased operations in 2003 (Allum, 2007).

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0 RESEARCH ON FUTURE SKILL DEMANDS panies in developing skills. What is missing, he argued, is attention to the role of industry and occupational groups in organizing pathways to develop needed skills (Lerman, 2007). Lerman mentioned the example of nursing education discussed earlier, criticizing the current situation, in which hospi- tals are paying to recruit trained foreign nurses, while community colleges are reluctant to expand their nursing education programs. Lerman said that creation of industry or occupational structures to support skill development would help to address the problem of growing income inequality. He also called for more research on the growth of in- come inequality within groups of equal educational attainment, noting that this “within-group” inequality is almost as high as overall inequality (Au- tor, Katz, and Kearney, 2006). Lerman said that one possible explanation for these wage differentials might be workers’ varying levels of the broad social, interpersonal, and analytical skills discussed at the workshop, but “we don’t really understand it very well.” Cappelli agreed with Lerman that within-group inequality is growing, noting that another part of the explanation might be the wide variation in the quality of college education in the United States. Agreeing with Lerman that the infrastructure supporting skill development pathways has weak- ened, he asked about the extent of apprenticeship. Responding that there are few good measures of apprenticeship, Lerman said that estimates of the number of young people involved vary from about 500,000 to 1.5 million (Lerman, 2007). He asserted that the national apprenticeship system had been “starved over time,” and that the current Department of Labor budget includes only $20 million annually to support apprenticeship. He noted that the federal government provides no subsidy for this training, which is supported entirely by employers and other partners, including community colleges and labor unions. Mary Gatta noted that mentoring is a valuable way help college stu- dents develop broad interpersonal and adaptability skills, calling for linking students with mentors in companies, in order to help prepare them for the transition to work. Helen Ladd then raised a question about whether poli- cies may be needed to increase engagement in education among boys and young men, referring to national data showing that more boys than girls are dropping out of high school and that most colleges and universities enroll many more women than men (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007b). Murnane agreed that this issue is of great concern across all ethnic groups, and particularly among blacks, as a much higher percentage of black women than men enroll in higher education. Sager responded that, because research has identified very few differences between the genders in intellectual abilities, the differential enrollment patterns between the gen- ders must reflect social and cultural factors, not differences in abilities. Finegold said that, in the field of biological sciences he studies, equal

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 FINAL REFLECTIONS numbers of men and women receive doctoral degrees, but the senior leader- ship in both academia and the biotechnology industry is male-dominated. Eileen Collins, formerly employed by the National Science Foundation, said that internships are valuable, but cautioned that, if internships are not paid, they may be an option only for young people from wealthy families. She mentioned that there are many practical programs under way across the nation designed to address the problem of inequality, citing the example of summer camps and internships in Texas that engage young women and minorities in preparation for science and engineering careers. She suggested an effort to assemble existing databases about such programs. A District of Columbia public schools official involved in technical education said that she believes that employers do want to help young people develop high levels of skills, describing partnerships with companies that provide mentoring, student field trips, and guest speakers in schools. Stating that her greatest challenge is to develop interpersonal and cognitive skills among the teachers, many of whom lack work experience outside the classroom, she called for enhanced training of teachers. Noting that one of the broad skills important for the future workplace is time management, Finegold then adjourned the workshop.