From the archives – I found the printed version among other stuff I have written and I decided to post it online. I spend a lot of time thinking about appropriate job/ skills training.
|The United State’s fragmented jobs training and vocational education policies put this country at risk and fulfilled a greater unemployment rate than necessary due to lack of foresight and planning to create a workforce that was both educated for high skilled jobs but that provided individuals a “fall back” skill to employ Americans when middle class jobs were exported and we were left with service jobs and highly skilled, white collar jobs and entrepreneurship endeavors. America must now prioritize a way to move the current unemployed workforce forward, while providing varying opportunity levels for the children to succeed at any rate. Taking our wealth of private companies coupled with comprehensive vocational training policies and welded into public-private vocational education programs can be the recipe for success.
Table of Contents
The year now is 2011, national unemployment is at a rate of 9.1 percent. The nation has been in a steep recession, and there are no jobs to be found. The controversy is currently founded in how to kick start the economy, and how to best create jobs. There is failure in achieving cooperation from a fragmented congress but most importantly in the lack of focus, now and in the recent past to lay the ground with policies that had the foresight to prevent this situation, not talking about the credit and housing crises, a vocational education and jobs training comprehensive policy overhaul could have put us in a place of preparedness as a nation.
The United States’ agriculture and retail exports are the two largest for our nation that contribute to our GDP, however we have seen manufacturing and new manufacturing large scale projects fail in growth or occurrence. What happens then when so many workers are out of a job, post a depression, and years of a brain drain that has brought the best and brightest world-wide to America? We now invest in higher education and while we must work to educate our students for high earning jobs, we should have all along invested, and now focus on vocational education and jobs training because that is where the jobs are found NOW yet our workforce does not meet the demands of the labor needed.
The state of today’s vocational education and jobs training is that of a disjointed set of policies and programs that have yet to yield overwhelming results. The current job policy cannot be found as a comprehensive package rather, it is found in fragment in the home site of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) under the U.S. Department of Education. They currently are spending $1.9 billion dollars annually in Grants that fall under the general categories of Adult Education and Literacy, Career and Technical Education and Community Colleges. Like with other types of grant programs, in the realm of education, these are not measured and reevaluated at a given rate of success. The results of a cost benefit analysis looking at the overarching funding of vocational education and jobs training programs is that there is a short term success rate in the participants working two to five year after program participation.
The background of vocational training and jobs creation includes the Manpower Development and Training Act created by President Kennedy in 1962, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the Work Incentive Program (WIN) in 1967 that focused on providing training to welfare recipients. In 1973 The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act began awarding block grants given to states by the number of population, and thereby moved vocational training responsibilities stateside. The CETA was furthered in 1982 by the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA). The 1984 Perkins Vocational Program , the 1985 Food Security Act and the 1988 Family Support Act which culminated in the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program were all targeting welfare recipients. The Workforce Investment Act (WIA), of 1998 was one of the latest acts of consolidation of these programs. The last piece added to this non comprehensive policy includes $500 million nationwide for vocational training to disabled individuals as a part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. As a result of fragmented job training and vocational education policies, primarily in the form of funding, we are ill prepared to fill the jobs available with our jobless workforce.
While the jobs act of 2011 includes a National Wireless Initiative, Infrastructure Funding and more, vocational training continues to be omitted from the dialogue of jobs in the future. When Americans fail, so does America. The unemployment rate which is lived by many individuals and has led to the discontent of the “Occupy Wall street” movements will be consequential to elections in the immediate future. The lack of a comprehensive vocational education and jobs training program, that teaches the unemployed workforce employable skills, can be addressed by making it a priority or a small initiative of the current administration that teaches you something new each day getting you one step closer to that new job. At the level of the elite in terms of power and money, the idea of a mobilizing “angry mob” is not ideal, therefore if the economic elite and political elite focused on getting Americans to succeed in a way that moves the country forward and is seen as having a good return on investment, then this focus can have some traction unlike it has ever gained before. Because we moved in discussions within our society of preferring higher education over vocational education and jobs training, and because we moved all of our necessary labor overseas, we missed the mark on a comprehensive policy that empowers the working and middle class to have tradable skills. A set of short term education programs alongside a partnership program with businesses big and small would be an ultimate combination of utilizing our resources and again becoming competitive players nationwide in various realms. Success will require foresight, clearly laid out goals, policies and funding, the political will to enact and implement such programs, and the willingness and cooperation of business to undertake public-private sector partnerships.
This type of program is not directly a dying policy, but rather a repackaging of a failed non-comprehensive goal oriented policy, and therefore can be taken up by a variety of actors. The original policies or grants passed were often initiatives included in overhauls by presidential welfare reforms.
1. This public-private vocational education partnership can come directly from five places:
2. The elite within the government in a top down, policy legislation via the President, or the bureaucracy, namely The Department of Labor, or the Office of Vocational and Adult Education
3. Congress member or Senator can develop the policy as it’s jobs creator initiative
4. A coalition of business owners headed by the very same Howard Schultz that seems to favor government influence via action items could bring such a proposal forward
5. The 99% can demand that a partnership be created with the rich not in a way to provide welfare but rather in a way to empower the people to pull themselves upward, with new skills, because they don’t have a spokesperson, this would best be done via a list of demands conveyed through the media.
Once the issue became prominent there would be a depth of actors involved, from the overseeing bureaucratic branch, to the private partners to the community colleges, municipalities and other entities involved.
A policy of a public- private vocational education partnership would not be an immediate successful overhaul because of the depth of actors involved as well as the timing that it would require to “take stock” of the current success and cost benefit analysis of the ongoing vocational training assistance and programs in place across the country. The firs main challenge then lies in successfully and accurately evaluating the current programs and identifying the failures and inefficiencies that can be fixed by this comprehensive innovative approach. Secondly, the involvement of stakeholders at the development is crucial, from educators, private partners to community college board members and recipients because all these actors are also beholden to other entities such as state departments and stock holders. Lastly, the development of this policy is tied directly to the response and willingness of private partners it receives and therefore a major communications effort is necessary to “market” and attain buy in from these. Lastly, because this is a new approach, actors would be skeptical to enforce something that they have no success rate to compare results to, or set as measurable goals, however it would be worthwhile to enlist visionaries and program developers such as Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner that established Micro-credit and the Grameen foundation in Bangladesh and then Public-Private social business enterprises.
In today’s political environment, depending on who takes up either a private – public vocational education initiative or a purely straight forward vocational and jobs training evaluation and overhaul and how it’s framed, it has potential to appeal to a majority of actors involved.
· Democrats in both houses would be content to address the unemployment issue while providing training, which is a method of empowerment and core to the democratic tenants
· Republicans would appreciate the partnerships with businesses and individual capacitating as it would ascribe to the “pulling yourself up from your bootstraps” ideal
· Business would benefit from training individuals and their labor at a lower cost
· Individuals would benefit from a skills set acquired that they did not already have that will make them employable in the future independently of any other higher education degree or having no degree
The larges challenge for this type of policy to occur would be found in the necessary upfront funds necessary to kick start such a program, regulation and enforcement of labor laws so that individuals are not taken advantage of, and most importantly the work done to successfully evaluate and create this initial policy. This process would take some investment of time, resources and focus, for which America is possibly too polarized, frantic and scattered to embark on.
It is difficult to presume that such a large scale policy development / program overhaul is possible since it does not follow an incremental policy decision making which is most customary for national policies, however, sometimes as now when the result of existing policies is ongoing failure, new attempts must be made, and the political will must be leveraged, for the nation to move forward.