pathways to work

(UPDATE: Some good info in this article on vocational ed here)
I am taking a quick look at a report up the Harvard Graduate School of Education, entitled: Report Calls for a National Effort to Get Millions of Young Americans onto a Realistic Path to Employability.
Today, the Pathways to Prosperity Project, which is based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is releasing a major new report that examines the reasons for our failure to prepare so many young adults, and advances an exciting vision for how the United States might regain the leadership in educational attainment it held for over a century. Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century contends that our national strategy for education and youth development has been too narrowly focused on an academic, classroom-based approach. It is now clear that this strategy has produced only incremental gains in achievement and attainment, even as many other nations are leapfrogging the United States. In response, the report advocates development of a comprehensive pathways network to serve youth in high school and beyond.
Pathways to Prosperity*, a truly bad name for a report about giving the 45% of young people that can't be shoehorned into college, a chance to work via apprenticeships and a vague call for employer programs.  (I have posts on Zoho's hiring practices and Thiel's money for stop outs. )

*[I want to say that the glossy pictures of happy students is a strange way to present such depressing data. It is not unlike a recent Talk of the Nation that I heard, where after the theme music and the moderator's snappy verbal segways in and out, it was truly an odd experience when we returned to the topic of predator drone attacks on civilians.  It was jarringly unfit.  And this report does the same thing: amidst these smiling faces we are reading of half the population facing extreme economic hardship.]

Nation-states that keep wages in a more narrow band and do not allow excessive wages for college graduates, maintain social cohesion and spread wage income to other sectors. Most industrialized states do this with free college and strong vocational programs. The strip malls, car-focused roadways, badly-built homes and mis-designed suburbs in the US all testify to the problems of ignoring the input of many people and having a growth process that is grounded in reality instead of finance. Trades were historically valued in Europe because well-built homes, streets and things were appreciated. Look around your town and you'll see this failure up close and personal.

This report's failings:
  • complete acceptance of the required BA with no analysis of how or why this has occurred
  • no way to roll back on the BA 
  • no discussion of wages and equity for alternative paths to employment
  • no discussion of small-scale organic agriculture, a huge need
  • no focus worker-owned businesses and co-ops
The report's strength is that it does gather a lot of statistics and they are pretty awful.  The college-for-all plan is not a plan. The report advocates for more entry work paths for students who do not or cannot go to college and the discussion is about employers and apprenticeships. This is badly needed especially if the unionized manufacturing jobs that replaced the majority agricultural jobs, are all gone. That leaves 45%, about half, of our young people with no work while the elite class holds onto jobs running colleges and corporations and armaments.

Homeschooling families are and have been actively working with their children to create these options, one by one, for years.

A collection of quotes from the report, inserts and emphases are mine:
By 1940, the typical 18-year-old had a high school diploma, up from just 9 percent who had achieved this milestone in 1910. After World War II, the GI Bill [free college] helped usher in a huge expansion in higher education. As a result, members of the U.S. Baby Boom generation far surpassed their counterparts in other countries in educational attainment. 
.... 
The “forgotten half” challenge has deepened with the growing importance of post-secondary education to success in the labor market. In 1973, nearly a third of the nation’s 91 million workers were high-school dropouts, while another 40 percent had not progressed beyond a high school degree. Thus, people with a high-school education or less made up 72 percent of the nation’s workforce. In an economy in which manufacturing was still dominant, it was possible for those with less education but a strong work ethic to earn a middle- class wage, as 60 percent of high school graduates did. In effect, a high school diploma was a passport to the American Dream for millions of Americans.
By 2007, this picture had changed beyond recognition. While the workforce had exploded nearly 70 percent to 154 million workers, those with a high school education or less had shrunk to just 41 percent of the workforce. Put another way, while the total number of jobs in America had grown by 63 million, the number of jobs held by people with no post-secondary education had actually fallen by some 2 million jobs. Thus, over the past third of a century, all of the net job growth in America has been generated by positions that require at least some post-secondary education.
 
          .....
The problem is most visible in our high schools, which are plagued by extraordinarily high dropout rates. Every year, some one million students leave before earning a high school degree. Many drop out because they struggle academically. But large numbers say they dropped out because they felt their classes were not interesting, and that high school was unrelentingly boring. In other words, they didn’t believe high school was relevant, or providing a pathway to achieving their dreams. This crisis has been likened to a “silent epidemic” that is undermining the very future of America.
Failure rates are even more pronounced at the post- secondary level. The percentage of students who graduate from college “on time” varies widely by the selectivity of the institution. Among the nation’s most elite colleges and universities, the graduation rate easily exceeds 90 percent. Among “very selective” four-year colleges, 75 percent of the students earn a B.A. within
6 years. But among all four-year colleges, just 56 percent of students meet this goal. And at community colleges—the nation’s largest post-secondary system— fewer than 30 percent of students manage to earn an A.A. degree “on time” (meaning within three years).20 In short, the majority of students who go on to college fail to earn a degree on time, and many of those never successfully complete their degree. As a result, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States now has the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world.
There is some good news:
The Georgetown Center projects that 14 million job openings—nearly half of those that will be filled by workers with post-secondary education—will go to people with an associate’s degree or occupational certificate. Many of these will be in “middle-skill” occupations such as electrician, and construction manager, dental hygienist, paralegal and police officer. While these jobs may not be as prestigious as those filled by B.A. holders, they pay a significant premium over many jobs open to those with just a high school degree. More surprisingly, they pay more than many of the jobs held by those with a bachelor’s degree. In fact, 27 percent of people with post-secondary licenses or certificates—credentials short of an associate’s degree—earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient.
We are going to need a lot more than this but acknowledgement of the utter brokenness of the system is a step forward, in my view. However, the call for institutionalizing this path when the institutions themselves are a part of the problem doesn't bode well for much other than a second-class vo-tech program with guaranteed low wages. Community colleges steal from the poor and don't deliver and, surprise, salaries go up anyway.  Free college expanded to include trades and other types of work would be a real path.  Mass institutions themselves have created this problem and institutional reform isn't on the table.

Much more in the report, read for yourself:


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