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Opinion: Skills-focused Education Needed To Produce Job-ready Workers

Opinion: Skills-focused education needed to produce job-ready workers

Opinion: Skills-focused education needed to produce job-ready workers

Student Abbey Carlson works during welding class at Tennessee College of Applied Technology Nashville on April 13 in Nashville, Tenn. While almost every sector of higher education is seeing fewer students registering for classes, many trade school programs are booming with young people who are choosing trade school over a traditional four-year degree. (AP Photo/John Amis) From 2021-2022, the U.S. economy added nearly 11 million jobs, but workforce participation still remains below pre-pandemic levels, in part because unemployed Americans lack access to the job training needed to fill vacant jobs. Recent legislation passed in Congress, including the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, is expected to create millions of new jobs, but industries are reporting that there won’t be enough skilled workers to fill these openings, underscoring the need for Congress to make investments to train more workers. Glenn Marshall of Williamsburg serves on the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Management Team. The JOBS Act would allow Pell Grants to be used for high-quality job training programs that are at least eight weeks in length and lead to industry-recognized credentials or certificates. By expanding Pell Grant eligibility, the JOBS Act would help close the skills gap and provide workers with the job training and credentials they need for careers in high-demand fields. Since taxpayer dollars already fund our public-school programs, why can programs like the one outlined by the government not be delivered while students are in high school at no additional cost to taxpayers and parents? An informed decision would be to review our current public-school programs to include industry-recognized credentialing or certifications delivered before graduation, as is being done in Switzerland and Germany. Many states have started to consider and implement a defined set of skills by deploying a competency-based learning (CBL) approach to increase qualified graduation rates and ensure students demonstrate mastery before graduation. Key findings emerged from studying the deployment of competency-based learning are: 1. Students must demonstrate mastery of all required competencies to earn credit or graduate. 2. Students advance once they have demonstrated mastery, and students receive more time, and possibly personalized instruction, to demonstrate mastery if needed. 3. Students are assessed using multiple measures to determine mastery, usually requiring that students apply their knowledge, not just repeat facts. 4. Students can earn credit toward graduation in other ways, including apprenticeships, blended learning, dual enrollment, career and technical education programs, and other learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom setting. Schools should commit to redesigning schedules, assessments and student support practices to ensure systems are designed to provide equity in everyone’s education, while celebrating each individual student’s achievement by offering the support each needs to meet high expectations. Pursuing CBL reflects a deep belief that the education system needs to change to become a more inclusive and learner-centered approach. To help deploy and validate the success of CBL initiative. ETS and the Carnegie Foundation are envisioning a process to prepare and measure students’ skills. The potential changes in measuring education experience come as the conversation about shifting to a “skills-based” approach to jobs and hiring has exploded over the past few years. Companies have long evaluated new employees by post-secondary credentialing, college degrees and their years of experience in a field. In school, learning has been measured by “credit hour” — the time spent in a classroom — since 1906. As the economy evolves, technology advances and the workforce changes, individuals will need to have the relevant skills, intellectual curiosity and willingness to learn and adapt to all the new-collar jobs. Reshoring Initiative President Harry Moser explained that a national mind shift is needed for achieving success by promoting skills-based education and demonstrated proficiency as a pathway to high-paying new-collar careers of the future. Now companies such as Google, IBM, Accenture and others want to drop degree requirements and put more emphasis on skills when hiring. As education breaks free from classroom boundaries and seat time, public school districts have an opportunity to collaborate through public-private partnerships and learn together how to effectively graduate skilled and career-ready citizens. The goal of competency-based learning is to ensure that students are acquiring the knowledge and skills that are deemed to be essential to success in school, higher education, careers and adult life. Graduating students with demonstrated competency-based skills is a proven career pathway to achieving the American dream. Glenn Marshall of Williamsburg serves on the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Management Team, leading a renaissance for manufacturing. He is a member of the Reshoring Initiative and […]

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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