This week we announce a new digital publication, Work Shift. Coverage includes on-the-ground perspectives about the big shift in education and work, a look at how Indiana is serving as a proving ground for short-term credentials, and the possible return of TAACCCT grants.
Say Hello to Work Shift
We’re excited to announce the launch of Work Shift, a digital hub for news, analysis, and opinion focused squarely on the intersection of education and work. It’s a new partnership of this newsletter and Open Campus, dedicated to expanding sophisticated coverage of education, training, and work—what works well, what doesn’t, and what’s still uncertain.
This week’s newsletter features exclusive coverage from Work Shift. But you can find more on the site itself. Please check it out! And then:
- Fill out the reader survey to let us know what you’d like to read.
- Follow these links to learn more about the Work Shift team, our underwriters, and our commitment to nonprofit journalism and editorial independence.
- Let us know if you’d like to write an op-ed or other commentary piece to be featured on the site.
Thanks for reading, and now, on to the news…
—Elyse Ashburn, editor of Work Shift, and Paul Fain, editor of The Job
The Big Shift
Call it the “great reassessment of work,” the “great resignation,” or the “big churn.” Whatever the case, there’s massive upheaval in today’s job market and growing evidence that millions of Americans are rethinking what they want from work. There’s a shift underway—and whether it ends up being seismic or something smaller, it has major implications for the way we educate and prepare people for careers.
“I still feel like we’re sewing the parachute as we fall, because the change is just really coming that rapidly right now,” Tamera Maresh-Carver, managing director of global learning and development at FedEx, said at a recent event.
To understand more about how this shift in work and education is playing out on the ground, we dug into survey data and talked to people—counselors, leaders at staffing agencies and nonprofits, and students themselves—who are driving the change day to day. They gave us a clearer picture of the uncertainty of this moment and the real challenges around filling high-need roles, putting diversity and equity goals into action, and ensuring students find not just jobs but meaningful careers.
The following is just a taste of what we heard. You can find more developed snapshots from those data and conversations in the full story over at Work Shift.
—Employers are getting creative about how they recruit workers for hard-to-fill roles—rolling out more options to earn and learn at the same time. At Kelly Education, a staffing firm for schools and childcare centers, that means recruiting heavily from community colleges with early childhood education programs, and targeting students right out of high school who might be interested in careers in education.
“We’re working with guidance counselors to let students know, ‘Hey, if you’re interested in education, this is a path you can take right out of high school and go from there,’” said Minny Kouanechao, director of early childhood education at Kelly Education.
—But, even with increased interest in growing the talent pipeline, colleges say many businesses are still reluctant to put in the time to help people learn on the job. James Mable, director of career and job placement services for the Houston Community College System, said the system has been able to significantly expand the range of co-ops, internships, and apprenticeships available to students in recent years. However, getting employers to understand what on-the-job learning truly entails remains a challenge.
“A lot of times employers are simply trying to fill a job,” Mable said. “But I think about a student at a community college—a lot of times this is their first instance of connecting with an employer in their field of interest. We want them to have a foundation, to have opportunities to experiment with their field, to get acclimated to what’s expected.”
—When companies step up to try to hire lower-income young people without college degrees, making the connection to a workforce training provider can be a challenge. Michelle Sims, CEO of Year Up Professional Resources (YUPRO), a public benefit corporation and unusually structured staffing firm, said YUPRO is set to double in size this year with projected triple-digit growth in job placements. And Sims is looking for nonprofit training partners (contact her here).
“We need to deepen and widen our diversity talent pool with mission-aligned talent providers to expand opportunities for traditionally underrepresented talent,” said Sims.
—Diversity, equity, and inclusion are getting tons of attention when it comes to training and recruiting in corporate America, but those efforts face challenges when they hit the ground on campuses. Lynette Correa-Velez, assistant director of career development at Northeastern Illinois University, says many of the employers she talks with struggle to find recruiters and presenters from diverse backgrounds—the kind of representation that lets students know they mean what they say around DEI.
Correa-Velez says that without seeing leaders from less advantaged backgrounds, it’s often hard for the university’s students—who are 60 percent first-generation college-goers and 53 percent Pell eligible—to see themselves in professional roles.
“Unfortunately, the workplace has shamed people that don’t have middle-class or upper-middle-class background and accents. So a lot of our students are ashamed that they don’t talk the ‘right’ way or look the ‘right’ way. And a lot of my coaching is around dealing with that shame,” Correa-Velez said.
A Proving Ground for Short Credentials
Administrators at Ivy Tech Community College system didn’t notice that demand for manufacturing workers in Columbus, Indiana, was outpacing the number the local community college was preparing each year. But after the system began digging into more granular workforce data, it shifted where it was spending money.
Ivy Tech’s leaders decided to cut the interior design and culinary arts programs at the Columbus campus, which had flat enrollment, low employer demand, and low wages in the area, and redirected resources into the high-demand fields of manufacturing and health care.
The move is just one example of how Ivy Tech is increasingly focused on tracking how the “middle-skills” market is changing in each specific region across the state—and how its programming needs to change to match. “We own the responsibility of that,” said Chris Lowery, senior vice president of workforce, careers, and adult strategy at Ivy Tech.
“If the needs aren’t being met, the governor and business owners need to stick us in the eye and say, ‘You’re missing this.’”
That focus on workforce needs—and especially its investment in certificates and other short-term credentials as a way to rapidly reskill workers—has garnered national attention. As more states, such as Iowa, Louisiana, and Virginia, look to invest in short-term credentials to power a post-COVID resurgence, Indiana and Ivy Tech’s experience serves as a proving ground. Since the 2017-18 academic year, almost 21,000 adult students have earned high-value certificates at Ivy Tech with the support of the state’s Workforce Ready Grant program, and grant recipients have seen an average year-over-year wage increase of $6,800. Along the way, college and state leaders say they’ve learned some important lessons:
- Initiatives are more likely to be successful if they focus on regional supply and demand for credentials, not just statewide demand.
- Institutions can turn the challenge of finite resources to their advantage, using it as a way to focus effort and prioritize programs.
- And even free programs don’t sell themselves—clearly communicating both the value and the requirements to prospective students remains a challenge.
“One of our biggest challenges is how do you communicate this simply to people,” said Teresa Lubbers, the commissioner for higher education and chair of the governor’s workforce cabinet.
TAACCCT Part Two?
While $2 billion in federal funding for community colleges sounds small compared to numbers in the Biden administration’s infrastructure and family plans, the Obama-era Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants were among the most significant ever aimed at closing gaps between the two-year sector and workforce training. (They also sported one of the longest acronyms in Washington.)
New America and the Urban Institute have studied the impact of the TAACCCT program, which began in 2011. While it’s difficult to summarize the results of 256 grants to 729 colleges and universities over seven years, New America found that the program generally “had a positive impact on both the education and employment outcomes of those who participated.”
The grants weren’t all successful, of course. And observers say they often failed to create the sort of durable change and partnerships the program had sought.
Experts recently have been calling for Congress to create a permanent version of the TAACCCT grants. And the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives now is seeking to tweak and reauthorize the program, and to give it a big funding boost.
A recently introduced bill would allocate $9.1 billion for the new grants over seven years. The proposal features $2,000 allowances for students’ job searches and childcare, as well as up to six months of income support for participants who complete TAACCCT grants during periods of high unemployment and are unable to find jobs.
For ideas on how to improve the program this time around, I reached out to Eric Heiser, provost of Central Ohio Technical College. Heiser worked on a competency-based education TAACCCT grant during a previous stint as a dean at Salt Lake Community College.
Here’s what Heiser said he’d like to see with a reauthorized TAACCCT:
- An enhanced focus on serving sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. Retail and hospitality come to mind right away. A lot of folks left jobs in these sectors and aren’t coming back. Using a program like TAACCCT to help retrain and move them into sustainable careers would be a great move.
- Giving colleges more flexibility to use funds in a myriad of ways (especially on intensive student support) would give them more ability to make a huge positive impact. Community colleges are trying our hardest to put enhanced focus on student support, but it takes dollars (i.e., staff) to make those things happen.
- Similar to what New America noted, requiring the use of funds for things like childcare, food, emergency grants, etc., would also be a massive improvement over the first round. Students in programs like these are just one emergency away from dropping out. Having these types of safeguards within the grant would be huge.
“At COTC we are likely to focus on helping students move from job to career. We’re talking specifically about careers that are more insulated from shifts in the economy. Right now, that seems to be health care and technology. We’d love to write an application that would focus on the training coupled with a student support model like CUNY’s ASAP. That seems to be the most effective way to use these dollars, retrain new employees, and bolster the overall economy.”
A new, eight-part podcast series featuring conversations with community college leaders about policy approaches that produce results for workers, learners, and employers, as well as about policies that are falling short.
Colorado’s legislature passed a bill to create a program to award associate degrees to students who earn at least 70 credits at a four-year institution but fail to complete a bachelor’s degree. Roughly 13,000 Coloradans who left college during the past three years could receive an associate degree under the initiative, Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, told EdSurge.
Among 78 percent of 11th and 12th grade U.S. students who responded to a recent survey saying their plans after high school had changed, 34 percent said they plan to attend college closer to home, 24 percent plan to attend a community college rather than a four-year institution, with 7 percent saying they no longer plan to attend college and 16 percent saying they plan to attend later. America’s Promise Alliance conducted the national survey of 2,439 high school students in March and April.
All of the roughly 800 juniors enrolled at the University of Illinois’s Gies College of Business this fall will be required to take an experiential learning course where they will work in small teams to analyze and solve problems for 130 businesses. “By doing this, we’re able to bring our classroom into the business world,” said Andrew Allen, director of the office of experiential learning at the Gies College.
Netflix and 2U have expanded a tech boot camp project with four new HBCU and HSI partner institutions. The free, credit-bearing Netflix Pathways boot camp began at Norfolk State University. It features mentoring and programs in data science, Java engineering, or UX/UI, and will expand to Talladega College, Marymount University, Edward Waters College, and St. Edward’s University.
Aging buildings and infrastructure, limited access to business capital, and an inadequately skilled workforce create competitive disadvantages for the U.S. manufacturing sector, particularly in cities, according to a new policy report with an equity focus from the Urban Manufacturing Alliance. The alliance called for the prioritization of “inclusive manufacturing policy” throughout the federal government.
U.S. job postings on Indeed.com are roughly 30 percent higher than they were just before the pandemic hit here, particularly in manufacturing and construction, as well as HR. “Employers want to hire the people who will help them hire,” said Jed Kolko, Indeed’s chief economist, who predicted that overall U.S. job openings could reach 10 million this month.
“Convincing your organization to make significant changes to their recruiting strategy might be the hardest part of improving your hiring results,” wrote four researchers and experts in an essay for the Harvard Business Review, which featured tips for attracting talent in an economy that they said features both higher unemployment rates and a labor shortage.
Colleges should “begin building an ecosystem to support digitally verifiable learning records,” the U.S. Department of Education said this month, citing growing interest in industry certifications, stackable microcredentials, and online degrees. The June guidance document, which EdScoop reported on, covered the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on underserved student groups.
Let me know what I missed. Catch you next week. —PF @paulfain