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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

Think LuLaRoe is a pyramid scheme? Founders say your opinion’s uneducated

(BUSINESS NEWS) LuLaRoe Founders fight back against allegations saying that they’re a disruptive business model, not a pyramid scheme, and anyone that disagrees is uneducated…

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Clothing company LuLaRoe insists that they are not a “pyramid scheme” despite recent class-action lawsuits claiming that the company lured retailers into buying thousands of dollars’ worth of unsellable merchandise.

LuLaRoe uses “multi-level marketing” to sell their products, meaning that the company sells merchandise to “consultants” – most of them women working from home who resell the merchandise to their neighbors and friends at home parties. The idea is that moms who want to stay home with the kids will have an independent way of making an income.

Last month, two class-action lawsuit were filed against LuLaRoe, claiming that the company makes the vast majority of its profits off of women who sign up to be consultants, rather than from sales to the end-users.

Plaintiffs say they have lost thousands of dollars because LuLaRoe aggressively pushes consultants to buy up to $20,000 worth of merchandise that can’t sell, either because the markets is flooded, or because the products are poor – one suit claiming that the fabrics tear like “wet toilet paper.”

“The vast majority of consultants sitting at the bottom of defendants’ pyramid were and remain destined for failure and unable to turn any profit,” says one suit. “Some resulted in financial ruin due to pressure to max out credit cards and to take loans to purchase inventory.”

The suits further claim that when women have tried to get out of the business, LuLaRoe has refused to take back and refund unsold merchandise, while also telling former consultants that they can no longer sell the products. Thus, consultants are stuck with thousands of dollars of merchandise that they can’t sell sitting in their garages and basements.

Deanne and Mark Stidham, founders of LuLaRose, tell CBS that it isn’t a pyramid scheme and that anyone who thinks so has an “uneducated opinion.”

Says Deanne Stidham, “You get the product, you put it before people, and you sell it, and you have money, and that’s the simplicity of this business and that’s as easy as it can be.”

The Stidhams implied that jealous retailers were encouraging plaintiffs to sue because the LuLaRoe model has been “disruptive in the marketplace.”

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Business News

Class action lawsuit claims Tesla plant is a hotbed of racism

(BUSINESS NEWS) Tesla is being hit with another lawsuit, this time alleging discrimination at one of their plants. No wonder Musk wants to get to Mars…

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Groundbreaking automaker Tesla may be the future of automotive transportation, but when it comes to discrimination, some say the company seems to be living in the past.

This week, the company received notice that they would be brought to court by a group of black workers filing a class action lawsuit. The suit states that the Tesla’s Fremont, California production plant is a “hotbed of racist behavior.”

The suit was filed by former employee Marcus Vaughn in the California state court in Oakland and is the third lawsuit filed this year by black workers and former workers from Tesla.

Vaughn, who began working in the factory in April, says that his supervisors regularly referred to him using racial slurs. When he wrote a complaint to the human resources department, they were unresponsive. Then in October, Vaughn was fired for “not having a positive attitude.”

Tesla is denying the claims, saying that they did investigate the incidents, and fired three workers as a result. The company went so far as to post a statement called “Hotbed of Misinformation” on its website on Wednesday, saying that the company is “absolutely against any form of discrimination, harassment, or unfair treatment of any kind.”

In May, Musk sent an email to all employees telling them that should never “allow someone to feel excluded, uncomfortable or unfairly treated.” However, he also said that workers should “be thick-skinned.”

Vaughn’s lawyer, Lawrence Organ, who also sued Tesla on behalf of three black Tesla workers last month, responded that “The law doesn’t require you to have a thick skin. When you have a diverse workforce, you need to take steps to make sure everyone feels welcome in that workforce.”

Tesla is also facing lawsuits claiming that the company discriminates against gay and older workers, and last month, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union filed a complaint to the federal labor board, saying that Tesla had fired workers for supporting unionization.

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Business News

Harvard digs into how several women broke the glass ceiling

(BUSINESS NEWS) At an increasing pace, the glass ceiling is being shattered, but what did it ACTUALLY take for individual women to do just that?

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More than ever, women are breaking the glass ceiling in businesses. However, progress is still very slow, with the number of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies only increasing little by little each year.

The Rockefeller Foundations’ 100×25 initiative hopes to have 100 female CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies by 2025. To this end, they’ve given a grant to Korn Ferry, a recruiting firm, to find “research-based tools and strategies” for launching more women into executive positions.

Korn Ferry teamed up with Harvard Business Review researchers to interview and assess 57 female CEOs to find out the plot points and personality traits led to their business success. From these observations, they’ve made some crucial recommendations for how companies can get more women into top positions. Here’s what they discovered.

First of all, the study found that women had to work harder and longer to get to the top than men. They held more positions, worked for more companies, and were an average of four years older than their male counterparts.

Secondly, the study also found that female CEOs were motivated by different factors than male CEOs. They were less interested in status and rewards than they were in collaboration and in participating in something that would contribute positively to company culture or to the community as a whole.

The study also identified four common characteristics of female CEOs: courage, risk-taking, resilience, and managing ambiguity. Breaking the glass ceiling in and of itself required women to face fears, take on challenges, and stay in the fight even when discouraged.

Despite these powerful personality traits, female CEOs were found to be more humble than male CEOs. They spent less time promoting themselves and were more likely to be thankful for their coworkers and supporters, and to give credit to others for their successes or their company’s successes. Female CEOs saw themselves as a part of a team and understood that no single person was responsible for defining the company or making it successful.

The study discovered that very few female CEOs had envisioned themselves making it that far. Only five grew up dreaming of being a CEO, and two-thirds said that they didn’t even think about being a CEO until a mentor or boss encouraged them.

Lastly, the study found that female CEOs had strong backgrounds in STEM, as well as business, finance, and economics. None of the CEOs started their careers in human resources, a department that is often heavily staffed by women.

From these findings, the researchers made several suggestions to strengthen the “pipeline” of women into top positions. This included identifying women with potential earlier and giving them more opportunities and guidance, including mentors and sponsors. It also suggested describing leadership roles in terms that resonate with women by showing how the role will give them a chance to add value to the business and do something positive in the world.

Finally, the researchers warned to beware of the “glass cliff,” wherein women are only given leadership opportunities when the company is in crisis or when there is a high chance of failure. Instead, companies are encouraged to give women a chance when the brand is doing well, or if you must put them in a high-risk position, help them bounce back so that it doesn’t ruin their career.

Read more on the study at Harvard Business Review.

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