Employable Skills, not Just Degrees, Needed for the “New-Collar” Workforce

Target Online Original Story • September 2

The United States is discovering that the demise of vocational education programs and the lack of a focus on educational fundamentals at the high school level has bred a skills shortage of career and college-ready graduates. While some of the new collar jobs require a college education, most are "middle skill" jobs requiring a high school diploma, a foundation of math and science along with some additional skills training acquired through apprenticeships and/or credentialing programs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the economy will create millions of new-collar careers and only 27.1 percent will require a college degree. Why then are 63% of high school graduates enrolled in college and 53% of recent college graduates unemployed or underemployed? In other words, they spent four years or more working hard for their degrees only to end up in a job they could have gotten right out of high school without student loan debt. Now more than ever, students need an education focused on employable skills and learning that works to make their American Dream a reality.

Learning That Works

Companies want graduates with an eye for detail, creative critical thinking skills, a collaborative mindset, and an ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity. New graduates will need foundational skills in reading, writing, math, and science who know how to think - not what to think. Regardless of whether students are headed for college or the new-collar workforce, this type of “learning that works” will help them prepare for their future.

To its credit, Virginia is moving ahead with a plan to create a new type of school that involves unique partnerships called a "lab school" ” proposed by Virginia Gov. Glen Younkin. These partnerships would be between public and private universities and colleges, as well as private companies and local K-12 schools. These lab schools would have a specific focus, such as STEM or literacy, or a particular skill or industry will create learning environments that engage students in hands-on learning.

These lab schools, starting early in a child’s education, can produce amazing results by creating a strong K-12 education focused on reading, math and science and offer “professional” programs. Students are encouraged to enroll in applied science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classes for the new-collar jobs that these labs schools support.

The New Horizons Regional Education Centers (NHREC) in Virginia has engaged in a public private partnership with Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School, along with other employers, public school leaders, and legislators since 1966. It provides career and technical educational options for students within the school districts. NHREC has become a benchmark for community partnerships where employers, educators and parents are discovering that career and technical initiatives which are valued by employers which provides an equitable gateway for each student to learn how to be capable of achieving their career goals and dreams.

The good news is more organizations are collaborating with local schools by offering programs that are preparing students to enter the workforce and or go on to a secondary education which includes credentialing, apprenticeships, and if needed a college degree. We want to highlight some of these leading learning organizations like: SkillsUSA, CISCO Network Academy, Haas Technical Education Community , FAME program, Tooling U SME and AME Alliance Partners who are doing an outstanding job of closing the growing skills gap for the new collar workforce.

Retooling Education for the Future

The U.S. educational system must be retooled to graduate skilled career-ready citizens with the employable skills for work and life. The world of work is changing where skills not just degrees are becoming the new currency of the labor market.

To achieve these goals educators and business leaders must form public-private partnerships and join with organizations like the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), the Reshoring Initiative, Made in America and other leading organizations to engaged in making things in America, again. While reinventing the educational experience by graduating skilled career ready students - who have learned how to think - not want to think!

Special Dallas 2022 Conference Invitation

The Association for Manufacturing Excellence will host an international conference in Dallas Texas October 17th through the 20th. Register at AME DALLAS 2022. One of the featured sessions will be an international panel discussing how companies are replenishing the talent pipeline with skilled career ready “new-collar” workers.

For more details contact - Glenn Marshall Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) email marsh8279@aol.com or go to www.ame.org

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