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Our education system is slowly but surely evolving to address the talent gaps

(BUSINESS NEWS) Companies struggle with a talent gap from time to time, and today we discuss how the education system is evolving to meet employers’ needs.

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Pride in your work

In Studs Terkel’s 1974 book, Working, he took a tape recorder out into the country, interviewing dozens of people about what they did at work all day, and how they felt about what they did. For many involved in what were considered blue collar professions,  there was a sense of accomplishment in creating new products and in repairing things when they break.

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“I think a laborer feels that he’s the low man. Not so much that he works with his hands…” said Carl Murray Bates, a stonemason, speaking to Terkel. “Many that works with his hands takes pride in his work.” Although they were often physically tired by the nature of their work and the long hours that they spent doing it, the work allowed people to have a better life.

Shifting from college-focus

In America, the education system vacillates between ends of the spectrum for any issue that one would care to name, returning to the center on occasion. This is evident in the recent emphasis on ensuring students have multiple pathways to post-graduate success, whether in a traditional college track, certification and training for career fields, or supports for joining the military.

This shift away from the promotion of the traditional college track to the near exclusion of any other alternatives, even for those students who expressed zero interest in doing such a thing, is a good thing indeed. One hopes that such a focus on ensuring school serves the needs of its students remains at the forefront.
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“Our school system doesn’t need to create kids who are good at school,” writes Shelley Wright at MindShift. “Instead, we need to create an environment that engages learners, fosters creativity, and puts responsibility for learning where it belongs — with our students.”

Part of the issue stemmed from cuts to education budgets across the nation. When funds are scarce, anything not directly and clearly tied to activities that will increase test scores tends to be fair game.

For decades, the forerunners of the modern career and technical education (CTE) courses, then known as “vocational education,” were tracked for the mechanically or technically gifted. But they were also perceived as courses of last resort for students identified as academic strugglers.

Disappearing act

So as funds tightened and the need for improved test scores in core academic subjects skyrocketed, many states cut back or completely eliminated CTE courses that had been a mainstay for decades. Wood and metal shop, automotive repair, cosmetology—all staple CTE courses that led to careers for the students who took those courses, enjoyed them, and realized that they could make a career out of doing what they loved–were eliminated or severely curtailed.

Students were pushed towards a more traditional academic track, with a traditional academic outcome to follow: the four-year college and a pathway to a white collar job. Which worked for spme, but left many excluded from the American dream.

Degree is no longer a guarantee

“The problem is, they’re trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past, and on the way they’re alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school. When we went to school, we were kept there with a story which is if you worked hard and did well, and got a college degree, you would have a job,” said Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on fostering creativity in schools, in his TED talk on the subject. “Our kids don’t believe that! And they’re right not to, by the way. You’re better having a degree than not, but it’s not a guarantee anymore, and particularly not if the route to it marginalizes most of the things that you think are important about yourself.”

So, as we approach 2017, we’re right to know that what we’ve been trying simply doesn’t work for a large number of our students, and that even with a college degree, success isn’t guaranteed.

Talent and skill shortages

For some labor fields, this lack of attention and support have led to critical staffing shortages now and in the near future, unless things continue to change. Take for example the average age of a master plumber in the state of Texas: 58. Understanding that it takes several years of work experience and additional training to obtain that status, it’s still not sustainable.
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So at a time in which thoughts of retirement may not be far off, that’s the average age. As with all averages, many are older and still working in the field. Finding qualified plumbers, electricians, and HVAC mechanics, especially in commercial fields, is a daunting and competitive task. The competition to hire and retain those candidates illustrates a central theme.

There are simply not enough employees with the right combination of skills, training, and experience to go around, and that’s a shame. Not only for the companies who desperately want to hire them, but for those individuals who could be a part of that hiring boom if they only had access to adequate and affordable training programs.

CTE courses paying back

The revitalized focus on ensuring students have access to CTE courses as a part of their high school curriculum is beginning to pay dividends. Research has shown that, nationwide, nearly 95 percent of high school students currently take CTE-oriented classes. An additional 30 percent are focusing on CTE certification fields rather than collegiate-prep curricula.

These courses are not only a pipeline to a better career opportunity for students, but also an opportunity to keep students in school and engaged in what they learn.

Many of these students, who all too often see no reality in connection between what they are interested in and what they are learning, are those at risk for dropping out, physically or mentally, and have a lesser high school experience as a result. The new CTE frameworks exceed what the public thinks of as “vocational education.” Students now have pathways in multiple avenues of career and technical education, and the classes teach much more than merely technical skills.
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“When not presented in a narrow way, CTE is about problem-solving and troubleshooting, not just dexterity,” says Mike Rose, an education professor at UCLA and the author of The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker, speaking to the New York Times. This approach on soft skills—the characteristics of quality cooperation, interaction, and communication in the workplace—is vital for students on CTE and college tracks alike.

Something we can all agree on

As the political climate changes, it’s refreshing to note that the value of CTE courses appears to be one area of agreement. On the campaign trail earlier this year, Hillary Clinton discussed the value that CTE adds to education. Her comments were echoed by vice president-elect Pence. As governor of Indiana, Mr. Pence said, “all students deserve the same opportunity for success, whether they want to go to college or start their career right out of high school. This is not about a Plan A and a Plan B. This is about two Plan A’s.

We all deserve to be what we want to be, in a career field that we find personally rewarding, both emotionally and fiscally.

It’s insensitive and imprudent to not offer students opportunities to achieve their definition of success as it works for them. Here’s to hoping that the pendulum of change continues to favor ensuring that students can identify their own pathways, in fields that they never may have had the opportunity to dream of.

#TwoPaths

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Business News

Skilled workers can live in any city they wish and still get work [study]

(BUSINESS NEWS) A 2018 study reveals that remote work is on the rise, and the ultra skilled workers can work from any city they wish.

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A 2018 study that surveyed 1,005 hiring decision makers commissioned by Upwork sheds some interesting insights on the attitudes around remote workers and the challenges hiring managers are experiencing finding talent. The remote workforce is the future after all and this study offers both insight into challenges and solutions.

It was noted that talent is becoming harder and harder to find (up to three times more difficult than in past years). Meanwhile, remote work is on the rise, according to 55 percent of managers.

The overarching attitude toward offices becoming temporary anchor points is increasing, indicating that commutes are becoming less common (albeit slightly). Companies are increasingly embracing remote work, and according to 38 percent of those surveyed, it will become the predominant workforce.

A major challenge remains that company policies aren’t caught up to remote work – they are lagging behind or non-existent according to 57 percent of organizations.

Over half of all companies surveyed are using more temporary, contract, or freelance workers and the majority of hiring managers believe agile teams will become the norm in the near future.

Perhaps the juiciest tidbit, the fact that skills are viewed as more important than location suggests that at the end of the day…

remote workforce

If you have the skills, you can live basically anywhere. Remote and freelance work offers a variety of opportunities and means you don’t have to be synchronously local to a team to get work done. This means that you don’t need to be in a big city like New York or Los Angeles to get the big work and have access to opportunity.

Companies are struggling to find talent, and despite a lack of policy support, are opening up to remote work. Adding to this challenge is that more and more Americans are less mobile, due to concerns about cost of living (or other things in our lives), hiring managers are having a harder time finding the right talent to fill their own vacancy.

Skilled workers (those who have the abilities that are in demand and desired by their industry) have the ability to pick and choose where they want to live and it looks like now and the future, companies are coming to meet them. This is good news, and offers more and more opportunities, as well as flexibility for hiring managers.

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Business News

Indeed and Glassdoor are now owned by one Japanese company – what’s next?

(TECHNOLOGY) Now that Glassdoor and Indeed are owned by an international brand, how will their main competitors (and search engines) react?

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This year, Glassdoor, one of the most popular job and recruiting sites, has been acquired by Recruit Holdings Co. Ltd. (RCRRF), a Tokyo-based firm in a $1.2 billion cash transaction to become part of Recruit’s growing Human Resources Technology segment.

Recruit Holdings operates Three areas of business: HR Technology, Media & Solutions, and Staffing. In 2012, they acquired CT-based Indeed, which continues to be the number one job site in the world. Glassdoor will continue to operate independently as a part of Recruit Holdings, which holds companies in North America, Europe, and Asia, but it is noteworthy that a Japanese company owns two of the biggest players in the job search game.

The possibilities from this merger are not yet clear, but given that Recruit holds both Indeed and Glassdoor, the opportunity for integration and grouped pricing could eventually be useful for recruiters and HR/Hiring professionals. Although the company has not formally announced that integration is a possibility, considering the stiff competition from LinkedIn Jobs – it would be a great way to gain some competitive advantage.

The acquisition could help Recruit take on Microsoft (who owns LinkedIn) and Google to keep the two from dominating the online job boards, to which are essential for job seekers and talent seekers.

Of course, nothing is set in stone, but the possibilities are there. Recruiters should consider the possibilities for pricing and plan for how they will use the platforms (and how they will integrate Google for Jobs) to best collect the candidates they need.

Job seekers be prepared for more logins and more search sites for jobs and recognize that the possibility of Google no longer indexing Glassdoor (just as Indeed is not indexing on Google jobs).

The conflict between Indeed/Glassdoor, Microsoft, Google, and maybe even Facebook (look at Facebook.com/Jobs) is going to be an interesting battle to watch. JobBoardDoctor described the conflict of Indeed vs. Google as an old-west shoot out at high noon.

I suspect that with all four players in – it’s going to be a cold war in the recruiting world. Sit tight folks. Let’s see whats next!

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Business News

This fake company weeds out crappy clients

(BUSINESS) The former CEO of Highrise used a fake website to weed out toxic clients. How can you keep problematic customers out of your business?

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weeding out toxic clients

Sorting through your client list to weed out potentially toxic customers isn’t a process which garners the same attention as a company removing problematic employees, but it’s every bit as important — and, in many cases, twice as tricky to accomplish. One innovative journalist’s solution to this problem was to set up a fake website to act as a buffer between unwanted clients and his inbox.

If you’re anything like Nathan Kontny, your inbox is probably brimming with unread emails, product pitches, and pleas from people with whom you’ve never met in person or collaborated; unfortunately, many of these “people” are simply automated bots geared toward generating more press for their services.

Nathan’s response to this phenomenon was to create a website called “Trick a Journalist” in order to see which potential clients would sign up for the service.

Hilariously enough, the trap worked exactly as planned. Anyone signing up for Trick a Journalist was blacklisted and prevented from signing up for Nathan’s CRM software, with Nathan’s justification being that the CRM software in question should never be used for something so egregiously predatory as Trick a Journalist.

By creating a product which sets apart unwanted clients from the rest of the pack, Nathan succeeded in both attracting and quarantining present and future threats to the integrity of his business.

While this model may not be practicable at face value, there’s an important lesson here: determining the lengths to which your clients will go to gain the upper hand BEFORE working for them is an important task, as your clients’ actions will reflect upon your product or services either way.

Ruthlessness in business isn’t unheard of, but you should be aware of your customers’ tendencies well in advance of signing off on their behavior.

Of course, one minor issue with Nathan’s model of operation is that, invariably, someone will connect Trick a Journalist to his brand and miss the joke entirely.

There are less risky routes to weeding out potentially problematic clients than blacklisting them via a satirical website — though one might argue such routes are less fun — but the end result is essentially the same: keeping unsavory clients out of your inbox and off of your product list.

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