Politicians are always talking about growing the middle class. But what policies can actually accomplish that goal? See what is happening to the middle class around the world.The system has to think for the shrinking of the middle class and the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.What may be the reason behind?Skills have not kept pace with job requirements, leaving workers unemployed or underemployed.
Too many people remain without jobs, and too many employers across key industries cannot find workers with the right skills at the right time.Emily Stover DeRocco has outlined five solutions for this challenge but first, we need to understand how the nature of work is changing.
Why work is changing
The nature of work has changed substantially; the infusion of technology in every sector is redefining jobs and occupations. The composition of the workforce and the desires of the workforce have all changed in critical ways.In short, the job market has not yet adjusted to these changes.
- Workers are unsure what knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to succeed in today’s jobs;
- Workers must constantly acquire new and often higher-order skills to keep up with the pace of change;
- Workers must master an evolving set of competencies;
- Employers are reluctant to invest in employee training because of declining employee tenure and the fear of employee flight; and
- Job titles and experience levels are inconsistent from company to company, and from industry to industry.
Five strategic solutions could help meet these challenges.These strategies will help individuals understand the skills they need to get and keep good jobs, allow educators to understand how best to equip students and transitioning workers, and provide employers with the workforce they need.
1) Understand and respond to labor market demands
This requires using data from employers with requisite skills.Then, we can help employers start hiring for those skills and abilities. We can develop educational and training opportunities that are aligned with the knowledge and skills in demand. And we can help workers understand their marketable skills and the shortest routes to acquire the right skills.
2) Improve foundational and STEM( science, technology, engineering, and math) skills
Finding workers with what business executives call “common employability skills” is a challenge for employers across all parts of the economy. These foundational skills include an academic grounding in reading and math; individual abilities such as dependability, initiative, work ethic and integrity; workplace skills such as planning and decision-making; and people skills such as teamwork and respect.
No longer can we assume prospective employees will have learned these foundational skills from parents, faith institutions, or community service. We have to begin teaching and assessing them before new employees can learn technical and higher-level skills. Many middle-class jobs also require a necessary foundation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
3) Workers need valid, portable credentials
By 2020, majority jobs will require some postsecondary education and training.
There are a growing recognition and investment in the importance of standards-based, nationally-portable, industry-recognized credentials that have real value in the labor market. These credentials often are designed to industry standards and are primarily attained in the community and technical colleges. And they are awarded only after a third-party assesses whether a student has learned them. The recruitment, screening, and hiring practices of employers also need to recognize competencies rather than traditional degrees and “seat time” in classrooms. And we need to align postsecondary learning outcomes to these industry credentials.
4) Restore Career & Technical Education pathways to employment
We need to restore this important pathway to employment for the middle class. That means recognizing the Career & Technical Education system is responsive to the job market. At the same time, we need to provide opportunities for all students and transitioning workers through this system.
5) Connect the worlds of work and learning
Moving out of a pure “knowledge economy” that rewards workers based on knowledge or degrees to a “performance economy” that rewards using knowledge to improve performance. This shift requires a stronger connection between the worlds of work and learning.These pathways offer more “on” and “off” ramps to education and work. And they provide students and workers with experiences in the workplace as part of their learning. They “earn” while they learn, which is critical for workers who are redirecting their careers to benefit from the global economy.
Our workplaces increasingly are hotbeds of innovation, entrepreneurship, and opportunities. And we are seeing an unprecedented explosion of learning options and pathways. The challenge is to embrace those strengths and find the political will to leave behind inefficient and ineffective systems. At the same time, we need to expand these strategic solutions.
Then, we can offer economic opportunity and paths to the middle class for all.