Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Confluence: Unemployment, Underprepared Workforce

Looking at Sabrina Pacifici's today, I was struck by the confluence of several stories:

Broad Unemployment Across the U.S.
New York Times interactive graphic: Broad Unemployment Across the U.S. - "Under a broader definition of joblessness, some states have rates higher than 20 percent. This rate includes part-time workers who want to work full time, as well some people who want to work but have not looked for a job in the last four weeks."
The Ill-Prepared U.S. Workforce: Exploring the Challenges of Employer-Provided Workforce Readiness Training
"During the second quarter of 2008, The American Society for Training and Development, The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resource Management surveyed 217 employers to examine corporate practices on training newly hired graduates at three educational levels: high school, two year college, and four-year college. The findings indicate that employers are struggling to correct for an ill-prepared workforce. While almost half of the companies surveyed provide readiness or remedial training programs for new hires, the majority report less than strong results. The low scores may be linked to the fact that the programs offered often do not match employers’ greatest needs. Employers are also unable to report how much they are spending on these programs, which makes it impossible to assess their impact on the bottom line." [Stuart Basefsky]

This actually is confirmed by local corporate groups that have pushed for higher education standards (this was before the No Child Left Behind effort). In the Boston area about eight or ten years ago, there were groups of educators and business leaders who were meeting about the problem of employers who were having to retrain their employees who did not know how to read or make change. I do not know how real or how wide-spread the problem was, and did not hear about it being a problem for employers of 4-year college grads or even 2 year associate degree holders. This was focusing on high school graduates. But to continue with Be Pacific:3.
FTC Testifies About Crackdown on Scams Tied to the Economic Downturn
News release: "The Federal Trade Commission testified before the U.S. Senate today on the agency’s campaign to crack down on scammers who are trying to take advantage of the economic downturn to push a variety of scams, such as phony job-placement and debt-reduction services, get-rich-quick schemes, and bogus government grants...In response to the rise in financial distress scams, on July 1, 2009, the Commission announced “Operation Short Change,” a joint initiative with 14 states, the Department of Justice, and other agencies that included more than 120 law enforcement actions."
Hearing - The Economy and Fraud: Protecting Consumers During Downward Economic Times - Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance: "The reality is that with the economic challenges we face, families are more vulnerable than ever to financial scams, predatory marketing practices, and economic fraud. We all see the news every day about more layoffs, plant closings, soaring prices and more cutbacks in West Virginia and across the nation. No one deserves the potential ruin these schemes threaten. We have a responsibility to uncover them and provide consumers with the tools they need to avoid becoming victims of fraud and abuse.”
So, this is the dark cycle. Underprepared workforce. Unemployment. And the unemployed seek to support themselves through preying on others and their past employers. Ugh. Keep in mind, though, that this is looking at overall trends, as opposed to micro-focus on specific job areas, like either legal jobs or library jobs. Though the joblessness ripples through the economy... It does not immediately impact your sector.

If you follow the link to read the depressing Underprepared Workforce Findings report, you will discover some actual, helpful comments. Apparently, the interviewed companies wanted employees with more critical thinking skills. Here is a detailed list from North Central Regional Laboratory of Learning Point Associates (a K-12 consultant group) of Macro and Micro skills to be taught in critical thinking skills. It's a very interesting list from a law school point of view, actually. There are 35 items, ranging in 3 major groups, under

Affective strategies (fairmindedness, independence, intellectual courage and perseverance, self-confidence in reason, for example);

Cognitive Strategies - Macro Skills (refining generalizations while avoiding oversimplification, developing analogies, transferring insights to new situations, reading/listening critically, Socratic dialog, for example;

Cognitive Strategies - Micro Skills (thinking precisely about thinking, using critical vocabulary, distinguishing relevant from irrelevant facts, evaluating evidence and alleged facts, recognizing contradictions, for example.

There are lots more items; it's worth a long look. The other important point for young job seekers is that the employers are seeing young, inexperienced workers coming into the workforce competing against older workers who are not retiring. Workplace readiness training could possibly assist such young employees by filing the gap in their preparation. While many programs are un-even in their results, some have had some success.
Successful companies provide workforce readiness training within an overall company culture committed to training and to employees thoroughly screened for their job readiness. They design strategic partnerships with local colleges and focus on integrating workforce readiness training with both job-specific skills and career development training. Finally, companies that report success in their training programs were constantly re-evaluating them to align their content with current and future company needs.
Improving Workforce Readiness— What Business Can Do
These steps are not the only ones business can take. If business wants a better prepared workforce, it needs to:
• Communicate to the public at large that new workers must come prepared with both basic and applied skills.
• Participate with educators on developing workforce readiness skills through mentoring, internships, and other learning opportunities.
• Adopt better internal tracking of training costs and quality to document the cost of poorly prepared new workforce entrants.
• Encourage focused spending of corporate philanthropic funds on workforce readiness.
• Use its corporate voice to focus public policy discussion on the need to link k-12 education, technical schools and college education with workforce readiness skills so that our education and workforce systems prepare young people to complete post secondary education and make successful transitions to career path employment.
Libraries, for instance, need to implement internships, and track the results of the processes to improve their training methods. We need to work with our nearby library schools to assist in training our future employees. While I don't imagine I have the oomph to move philanthropic dollars into training librarians and lawyers for workforce readiness, I certainly can join wider organizations' efforts.

No comments: