Thursday, November 1, 2012

Middle-Skills, Jobs ... and Politics

1,200 plus Community College Locations
My post Job Creation Means What? touched on the need for targeted educational funding in order to set the stage for job creation. In effect this referred to funding middle-skills training on a massive scale using the community college system.

Middle-skill workers are individuals with some college education or an associate's degree, who are often needed to fill critical jobs in areas such as healthcare (nurses, EMTs, therapists), education (teachers assistants), information technology (network administrators, computer support specialists) and other growing occupations. These jobs require some specialized skills and often involve interpersonal interaction that cannot be easily outsourced or automated.

The two operative phrases are specialized skills and interpersonal interaction. They are very much service related which is no surprise given that the majority of middle-skills positions do fall into the service category. In fact this class of jobs conforms to what was envisioned a couple decades ago when the notion of a service economy first came into common use.

However the transition from the old manufacturing economy to the new service economy has been a slow and bumpy ride, hindered by the internet bubble popping in 2000 and the real estate debacle beginning in late 2007. Clearly we are in the midst of an economic paradigm shift and the take-away of this move to a service economy is still up for grabs for many Americans.

In the meantime there's a shortage of middle-skilled workers today and the supply/demand imbalance is projected to grow substantially over the next 5 to 10 years. When businesses talk about not being able to find enough qualified workers (in spite of the current economic conditions) the lack of prepared middle-skilled workers is in part what they're talking about.

This is a big deal and not without common shared interest.

- businesses need and want workers with these skills

- aspiring workers need training and jobs

- government wants to spur re-employment while bolstering national competitiveness

- community colleges need the help, given the condition of state and local budgets

The Obama Administration proposed the American Graduation Initiative in the summer of 2009, a $12 billion, ten year plan to beef up community colleges nationwide with an eye on middle-skills training. The proposal didn't make it out of the meat grinder that produced Obama Care. You'd have to dig to know much about the original plan, an important and timely woulda-coulda-shoulda. Furthermore you'd need to be a policy junkie or a community college administrator to follow developments of the remnants of the initiative, the Department of Labor's TAACCCT program (what an acronym) a $2 billion career training plan rolling out slowly to selected community colleges. 

The American Graduation Initiative was a big step in the right direction. But it wasn't big enough. Twice that much or more is required and implementation needs to be quicker than the proposed 10 year period.

As noted in my October 20 blog post, spending on infrastructure and this type of targeted educational support (middle-skills) are badly needed and offer something for everybody.

Maybe after the election next week ...

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

No comments:

Post a Comment