Confronting the Skills Crisis And Workforce
Challenges of the New World Economy

Newsletter

Volume 4, Number 4, December 2011

Please submit articles and news items to the NOCC office for inclusion in future newsletters and on the CRCC web site.

Previous NOCC newsletters are available at the NOCC/Resources site.

In this issue:

  • Conference News
  • Workforce Development and Education News
  • CRC Consortium News

CONFERENCE NEWS

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT and EDUCATION NEWS

  • In November 2011, an important white paper was released by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation. Developing Human Capital: Meeting the Growing Global Need for a Skilled and Educated Workforce was co-authored by Janet Bray, Executive Director of ACTE, Ron Painter, CEO, National Association of Workforce Boards, and Mitch Rosin, Director, Adult Education & Workforce Initiatives at McGraw-Hill. Subtitled Business and Education Working Together Can Reduce Barriers to Employment and Create New Pathways to Career Development and Job Growth, this paper is a timely reminder that partnerships are at the heart of our education and workforce development systems and can result in creative solutions to current and emerging issues.
  • Consider the following: "If we want a different, richer, better, deeper, more sustainable future we will have to choose it and pursue it with vigour. Humility overcomes hubris. Generosity triumphs. And the only place to start is in our classrooms. Are you ready for this?"

and this: Do you know what this equation means:

E = K + T + L

If you are intrigued and would like to know more about these two things, click here for the complete text of Impossible and Necessary: Are You Ready For This? by Sir Michael Barber, former Director of Education and Skills Development (aka Secretary of Education) in the Blair administration in the UK. The paper is from a speech he made in 2009 but it is still incredibly relevant to on-going discussions on education in this country and around the world. It will give you a lot to think about!

  • "If we don't address this skills problem, American businesses will lack the world-class work force needed to compete at a global level, and many Americans will remain out of work instead of accessing the high quality jobs of today and tomorrow". Workforce development professionals and educators have been making this sort of comment for many years with only moderate success in effecting change in their systems. This latest quote comes from Penny Pritzker, a Chicago business executive who is advisory board chair of the Aspen Institute's skills gap campaign. She was one of several private sector representatives who were quoted in the Associated Press in June of this year in the article Skills Gap Leaves Firms Without a Worker Pipeline.
  • In the 1990s, the British government decreed that Technology Education become part of the K-12 curriculum in the UK. This meant that students were able to engage in hands-on learning that combined math, science, engineering, and technology. For example, kindergarten students were able to design castles on a computer and then recreate them in cardboard on the floor of the classroom, and older students became engaged in real-world exercises connected with business, architecture, and marketing. Now, in the US, the acronym STEM is everywhere in education. There's nothing like a catchy acronym and grants from the NSF to energize educators but the difference between (US) STEM initiatives and (UK) Technology Education is that the UK curriculum is based on a generations-old emphasis and concern about art and design. In fact, the UK course was labeled Design and Technology. This arts component was deemed a requirement not only because packaging and architecture etc have a very artistic and literary component. (Have you ever purchased an item because of its color or cute presentation, or have you ever been frustrated with poorly written directions on a product purchase?) but also because of the recognition that students often learn better when they APPLY theoretical material.

    Now, at last, in the US, there is concern that the arts have been left behind in the rush to embrace STEM projects . Steve Jobs raised the issue of the arts in education when he said “It is an innovation strategy for America.” Coming from the creator of the Macintosh computer, iPhone and all the rest, this is a powerful statement.

    Perry Wilson, the creator of If I Had a Hammer has been promoting the same message for many years as he teaches 5th graders to build a small house while considering what goes into a project like that. Design, color, and architecture axioms interweave with the math and science required to complete the house. And of course, FIRST has promoted both STEM and the arts for two decades. Anyone who has ever attended a FIRST Robotics, VEX Challenge, or LEGO League competition will agree that art, writing, and other communication skills feature largely in preparations for and judging of those competitions.

    So now there is a move to expand the acronym from STEM to STEAM so that Arts will be included.! Read more about the change from STEM to STEAM, published this week in Education Week.

  • In his Washington Examiner article The Higher Ed Bubble is Bursting (12/3/2011), Glenn Harlan Reynolds reiterated his claim of two years ago that higher education is "an overpriced good, propped up by cheap government-subsidized credit". This is a definition of inflation that he believes has lured both borrowers and lenders into a mess. Reynolds claims that a bachelor's degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability. He lists self-discipline and the ability to defer gratification as examples of traits that allow us to enter and stay in the middle class, and he cites the markers for possessing those traits as things like homeownership and a college degree. The mistake, he says, is identifying the markers as being the causes of middle-class status.

China, Reynolds says, has already faced its higher ed. bubble and consequently, programs there that produce unempoyable graduates are being shut down.

This is a provocative article, as is Adam Davidson's article in the New York Times last week, The Dwindling Power of a College Degree" in which the author warned that the only thing young people and other potential workers can do in this rapidly changing world is to "go to school, learn some skills and prepare for a rocky road".

  • Recommended reading: That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, Thomas L. Friedman & Michael Mandelbaum, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011)

CRC CONSORTIUM NEWS

  • The Fall issue of Techniques magazine from ACTE was devoted entirely to credentialing efforts. The NOCC was asked to submit an article on the evolution and current status of the CRC around the country. For a copy of this article, click here.
  • In November, the Consortium and the exciting CRC evolution and expansion that is going on across the country were both on display through two presentations at national conferences.

    The CAEL Conference in Chicago, "Adult Learners in a Changing Lanscape" was very well-attended, and "The Career Readiness Certificate in a Sustematic Approach to Building Careers" created considerable interest. Slides used are available here.

Attendance at the ACTE Conference in St. Louis was also high with an audience consisting mainly of high school CTE educators. It was gratifying to have an enthusiastic audience of 25 at 8 a.m. on Saturday, the last day of the conference! Slides from this presentation are available here.

  • The Consortium will again be represented at the Careers Conference presented by the University of WI-Madison, in Madison, February 1, 2012.
  • When you visit the CRC Consortium web site, you will notice a significant change to the numbers matrix.

    Thanks to a new web site from ACT, (www.workreadycommunities.org) we have been able to update CRC numbers from states whose numbers were very old or non-existent, and to add states that were previously not listed. All 50 states are now represented in the matrix. Please note: This new web site ONLY reports the numbers of NCRCs issued in each state.

    Where the numbers of NCRCs has been obtained from the web site, those states are marked with an asterisk and the web site is cited.

    For states that are issuing their own CRCs (e.g. MS, VA, AR), the chart reflects those numbers as submitted to the NOCC by a CRC professional.

    In cases where a state is issuing BOTH certificates, we have included the highest total we have, whether it has been submitted or obtained from the web site.

It would be most helpful if you would check out the entries for your state and report any problems or discrepancies to the NOCC office.

  • As a result of the update to CRC numbers, here is the current Top 10:
    1. GA 267,454
    2. SC 161,164
    3. MI 127, 788
    4. FL 101,451
    5. NC 91, 570
    6. TN 79, 728
    7. OH 79, 103
    8. IN 76, 654
    9. OK 57, 990
    10. KY 44, 976
  • Good news from Mississippi. The CRC initiative is now being led by the College Board and they report that more than 28,000 state CRCs have been issued so far. Our new contact in the state is Rodney Hodges and the state web site is www.mccb.edu
  • The Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) is the lead agency for the administration of Oregon’s National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC). Below is news from Katelyn Roberts about the remarkable growth of the CRC program in her state.
  • In 2009, the NCRC was piloted in 13 sites across the state, which provided valuable feedback to CCWD for statewide implementation and delivery. Governor Kitzhaber officially launched Oregon’s NCRC statewide in January 2011, with Oregon’s One-Stop Centers, WorkSource Oregon (WSO) designated as the primary “front door” to the NCRC for employers and job seekers.

    To date, 9,538 [updated by NOCC August 2011] certificates have been issued and 312 employers have signed a letter of commitment, stating they would prefer the NCRC in their hiring practices.

  • From Arkansas, comes news on the evolution and growth of the CRC initiative, together with testimonials from employers in the state. Some key employer comments from the report are reproduced below:

The WorkKeys approach, through the Career Readiness Certificate, provides us with a validated process for selecting those applicants for initial interviews. This assessment reduces the time and effort required to identify a candidate with basics skills needed for the job. An additional benefit is knowing that the applicant has a strong desire to improve their skills thus providing a valuable asset to our company.

Roger N. Smith
Human Resources Representative
Actronix Inc.


In the past we needed many, many persons to attend our orientations and to then decide to accept employment with us to help us build the best railcars in the country. At the time we selected individuals for employment in the traditional way, that is, we sat with each prospective employee in an interview setting and attempted to solicit relevant information from him/her about job history, work habits, strengths and weaknesses. We were quite successful in finding the number of individuals we needed. But did we really know much about each person’s basic abilities? The answer is a resounding no!

I believe that . . . we are now orienting only individuals who have the basic abilities to read, to do basic math, and to read and interpret charts and graphs and who are likely to be able to learn our jobs. We also believe that these individuals will make for a better overall work force and that they will perform better and stay on the job longer, thus reducing turnover.


Dean Inman
Human Resources Director
American Railcar Industries, Inc

Our business is becoming more and more complex with new technology and customer standards certifications. As a result; the skill level required of employees has increased. The CRC program has given us a way to verify applicants have the prerequisite skills to be successful on the job in a relatively short period of time. It has also helped DWS and Human Resources to match employee skill sets with the right job.

In the recent economic down turn, we have been one of the few employers growing and adding employees. People in the community realize in order to work at Anchor Packaging they will have to obtain the CRC. So; there has been more emphasis placed on the value of education.

For years there has been a need for high schools and other educational institutions to prepare non-college bound students for other careers. The CRC has met that need as a way for educators and businesses to prepare students for transition from school to the workplace.

Kellie Blake, Human Resources Manager
Anchor Packaging, Inc

The Career Readiness Certification program has added tremendous value to our company by eliminating our need for internal new employee testing. We are adding money back to the bottom line without sacrificing the quality of our applicant pool. We are excited about this partnership and have been thrilled with the results.

Stacy Gunderman
Director, Human Resources
FutureFuel Chemical Company

The CRC process has helped us better understand the skill level upon hire. We are able to attract a more prepared and qualified applicant base which has increased our employee retention rate.

Lanita Plunkett
Human Resources Manager
Stant Manufacturing

 

Thought For the Day

If the human brain was so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't.

Merson M.Pugh, Physicist

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a successful, healthy 2012.

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© NOCC, November 2011