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What will become of work?

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The Weekly Dispatch
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A newsletter about role of higher education in society — plus Open Campus developments. By Sara Hebel and Scott Smallwood

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This newsletter is about the role of higher ed in society. Each week, we highlight how college is (or is not) working for citizens and communities. It goes out most Friday mornings — If someone forwarded this to you, you can sign up for your own copy here.


A year on The Job

Two years after workplaces around the world shut down, people seem to be wading their way back in.

On Zoom, I’m seeing more newsrooms in people’s backgrounds. We’re making plans to attend conferences, in the flesh. This week I got together, in person, with Naomi to collaborate on edits — complete with off-screen tools like actual sticky notes and a whiteboard.

We’re still too close to all of the upheaval to really know what will become of our work worlds next. Millions of Americans have rethought what they want from their jobs — and where they want to do them. The Great Resignation is reshaping labor markets, which in turn requires new thinking about how to prepare people for careers.

The big questions we’re now facing are part of what prompted Paul Fain to start The Job, our newsletter about the intersection between education and work, a year ago this month.

“A lot is up for grabs in the coming years,” Paul says. “And I think some colleges and employers will seize the moment and open up new pathways to good jobs. The question is how many, and for whom?”

As The Job turns one, I talked with Paul about what’s next and what’s struck him the most. 

Looking ahead, he’s paying attention to a number of key shifts in the landscape:

  • The scale of the credential programs offered by Big Tech — Google, AWS, Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft, and others. Microsoft, for example, is working with community colleges to help train and recruit 250,000 people for the U.S. cybersecurity workforce during the next three years.
  • How the enrollment crisis community colleges and other open-access institutions are facing overlaps with the Great Resignation. Companies often are paying entry-level employees more, and this in turn may be motivating some workers to put off going to college.
  • At the same time, the severe financial and time pressures that are keeping many Americans out of the job market are similar to those faced by potential college students who have opted out of enrolling, Paul says. The big question for both college degree programs and alternatives to college, like apprenticeships and short-term training, is whether enough lower-income students will show up.
Separate worlds

More broadly, Paul says he’s been surprised by just how separate the worlds of work and college remain:

“The silo effect is very much still a thing for students as they make the transition from college to a job. And it’s a problem in both policy making and media coverage, too.” 

There’s also an equity problem in the coverage, Paul says. “I see lots of good reporting on the future-of-work questions for white-collar jobs, but not so much about education and training programs for low-income Americans.

“And the questions in all of this too often are posed as lamely false binaries — like job exploration/preparation versus college, rather than doing both,” Paul adds. “I have a hard time seeing why more attentiveness to career is a threat to a quality higher education. And, as two experts wrote for Work Shift, career services is a social justice issue.”

— Sara Hebel

+ Sign up for Paul’s newsletter

++ Check out Work Shift, an Open Campus project focused on the connections between education and work.

+++ Recommended reading:

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Elsewhere on Open Campus

In Northeast Ohio: Better transfer routes between private and community colleges are an underutilized path to equity
In Northeast Ohio: Better transfer routes between private and community colleges are an underutilized path to equity It’s one way to try to improve bachelor’s degree attainment rates at scale, the authors of a new report say.

In Pittsburgh: Pitt police, clinicians jointly respond to some mental health crises. Students see progress, but implementation is key.

In Mississippi: Jackson State president calls for more HBCU funding in testimony about bomb threats. “What will it take for us to ensure the long-term protection of not only our students, faculty, staff and stakeholders, but the historical assets that are HBCUs?”

In Colorado: Exploring the college gaps in rural Colorado. Research shows rural students have high aspirations to go to college. Many don’t make it onto college campuses. Jason Gonzales is examining why.

In El Paso: UTEP campus police do not carry Narcan, despite UT System approval

Say hello in San Diego

Photo by Felix Wöstmann on Unsplash

Scott and Maria will be heading to San Diego in early April for the ASU+GSV Summit.

If you’ll be there, too, we’d love to connect. Send us a note to set something up.

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