Jobless USA: Industry Training vs College Education

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 9/11/2012 05:26:00 AM
Ho hum, another month, another jobs disaster Stateside as less than 100,000 jobs were created --a pace which only prolongs what is already the most protracted recovery from job losses suffered from a recession. While the unemployment rate "dipped," this artifactual occurrence is largely down to many leaving the labour force for one reason or another.

Although many Americans--including largely self-serving academics--repeat the mantra that college is the solution to US job woes, I remain unconvinced. Not only are college graduate wages falling, but college expenses are rising at a rate far outstripping inflation. If college was the magic bullet to the employment situation Stateside, then the situation should not be so dire to begin with given that enrollment is at or near all-time highs. It does not compute.

In addition to college's worsening cost-benefit proposition, another thing the "college fundamentalists" (education's equivalent of religious and market fundamentalists) haven't adequately explored is the the prevalence of job-skill mismatches. That is, colleges cannot answer the simple question of whether they are equipping their graduates with skills useful to modern employers. Hence my continuing support for the Geman apprenticeship system as opposed to what I call the US/UK uni-jobless system. While snooty Anglos may like their hoity-toity degrees as opposed to vocational qualifications, it ultimately boils down to employment outcomes (BLS statistics included). Or, more accurately for America, the lack thereof.

Thankfully, even the stubborn (and stubbornly unemployed) Yanks are seeing the light. A recent FT article highlights how industrial employers' groups are copying elements of the German example in providing skills that are actually useful:
While larger groups can afford in-house training schemes, small and medium-sized US industrial companies facing a lack of qualified young workers are increasingly taking the situation in to their own hands and forming partnerships with educational institutions to train workers with the skills they need.

Only one in five employers use training and development programmes to fill the skills gap internally, while only 6 per cent team up with outside educational programmes, a recent survey by Manpower Group has found...

Such partnerships are still unusual, however. Although 93 per cent of manufacturers said they faced some kind of skills shortage, in a survey last year by the Manufacturing Institute, an industry body, only 14 per cent are working with technical and community colleges. But the institute’s Jennifer McNelly says the numbers are increasing. “We are seeing it become part of the solution,” she says.
Again, the larger point is that it's high time that folks questioned the utility of a college education as more and more employers perceive such education as being quite pointless to them in addition to being cost-ineffective for students: 
The focus on four-year college degrees is a perennial gripe of US industrial companies, many of which argue that technical training would better serve young people when they come to look for employment.
According to Ms McNelly, many college courses that offer training for manufacturing jobs are not actually helping, because they are not designed in consultation with industry. “A lot of people go through manufacturing education but are they achieving industry certifications? Not all are right now,” she says.

In response, the Manufacturing Institute has developed its own national credential to teach a set of standard competencies for industrial jobs. The US federal government is encouraging companies to train young people, asking them to commit to taking on a certain number. More than 300,000 commitments have been secured this year, says Adriana Kugler, chief economist at the Department of Labor.
The Manpower report mentioned in the article enumerates further instances where employers are taking the initiative to deal with the obviously deficient products of the American education system. Alike its other quaint institutions, I ultimately think the US university system will soon be subject to the gales of creative destruction as its economic rationale is quickly eroding.

As with many things wrong in America, let Germany--a country that actually works--show them the way. That so many other countries have followed the US rather than the German education system should likewise be rectified as employment outcomes tell the tale.