Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

College Not Necessary for Success in 21st Century?

Posted by durencls on May 17, 2010


So, interesting/controversial article from the New York Times today(Thanks Margy!)

Plan B: Skip College 

Quotes from the article that caught my eye :

  • Perhaps no more than half of those who began a four-year bachelor’s degree program in the fall of 2006 will get that degree within six years, according to the latest projections from the Department of Education. For college students who ranked among the bottom quarter of their high school classes, the numbers are even more stark: 80 percent will probably never get a bachelor’s degree or even a two-year associate’s degree. That can be a lot of tuition to pay, without a degree to show for it.
  •  

  • College degrees are simply not necessary for many jobs. Of the 30 jobs projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next decade in the United States, only seven* typically require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [* or higher, and note that most of these 30 are in the lowest paying categories, like retail and food service – http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t06.htm ]
  •  

  • “It is true that we need more nanosurgeons than we did 10 to 15 years ago, but the numbers are still relatively small compared to the numbers of nurses’ aides we’re going to need. We will need hundreds of thousands of them over the next decade.”  Professor Vedder, founder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a research nonprofit in Washington. (And much of their training, he added, might be feasible outside the college setting.) [note that of the jobs listed in the second bullet above, TWELVE require only “short-term on-the-job training”]
  •  

  • Leading economists are cited as suggesting that the US should, “…steer some students toward intensive, short-term vocational and career training, through expanded high school programs and corporate apprenticeships.” 
  •  

  •  In one 2008 survey of more than 2,000 businesses in Washington State, employers said entry-level workers appeared to be most deficient in being able to “solve problems and make decisions,” “resolve conflict and negotiate,” “cooperate with others” and “listen actively.” [Sound familiar?]
  •  

The article does go on to present the related issues of lowering expectations, discrimination, etc. implied in directing some away from four (or even 2) year colleges.

BUT, if employers are failing students for lacking the basics of how to behave and communicate in the office – critical skills for ANY task – much less a technological task, then these issues NEED to be addressed by Adult Literacy programs and embedded in that curriculum.

I may have missed it – can anyone tell me where, in this recent federal push for “career readiness,” do we find funding and support for vocational training? Apprenticeships? Internships? Short-term certificate programs? Intense on-the-job training?

Our current academic systems – Adult Literacy Education included, are measured for accountability by participant/student performance on academic-type standardized assessments.  These are not designed to measure skills like “solve problems and make decisions” “resolve conflict and negotiate,” “cooperate with others” and “listen actively.” Are these tools, then an effective measure of how well folks are being prepared for the workforce?

What can the field of adult literacy (or even K-12 education) do to balance the call for more and more students to enter 2 and 4 year colleges?  How can we BEST counsel and support students for “beyond the GED?”

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