Sunday, January 24, 2010

Career Pathways

One of the best investments we can do as we recover from the recession is make investments in the jobs of the future. Green jobs are likely to be the driver of the next wave of economic growth. As we prepare for this wave, we need to think about how this next wave can benefit all of the citizens of our economy. The Green Jobs job ladder at South Seattle Community College provides the kind of career pathway that all or our citizens can benefit from.

Students out of high school or adults seeking new careers can start out with a one year certificate in energy management that can give them employment in good jobs with decent wages. If they stick with it and go back to school in science, math and business organization, they expand their potential by getting an associate degree in building science. Finally, they can continue on and get a Bachelor of Applied Science in Building Management. Building Trades workers in apprenticeship programs or with journeyman status can move up into management positions via the associate and bachelor's programs.

The beauty of this is students can start at the beginning and work their way up over time. The missing piece is the Bachelor's Program in Building Management. Hopefully, the legislature will address this problem this session and help open up career pathways for all of our citizens.

Education and Lifelong Learning

I've been involved for a number of years in the field you could call professional and technical education policy. That arena focuses on the middle skill jobs in our economy that make up about half the jobs openings in the labor market and require specific skills from education programs in technical and community colleges. Research indicates that these are the job in most demand and probably make the most difference in regional competitiveness since the job market is local not global. If you don't have trained R.N.s, machinists, chefs, landscape architects, electricians and accountants you are unlikely to import them from elsewhere. We have to provide the education and training in order to find these workers.

The major problem we have is that the education for these jobs general takes one to three years. Post secondary education but not the general qualifications of a bachelors' degree. When a person finishes the program and gets a job, they lack the requisite degree to move into management positions.

Going off the a university to start a four year degree makes little sense. This approach doesn't recognize current experience and education and isn't entirely relevant. Universities generally don't have management or technical programs that connect directly to jobs in the construction trades or culinary arts degrees.

This is what Bachelor of Applied Technology degrees come into the picture. Community colleges can offer higher level programs that connect directly to their career and professional programs and allow them to move up the job ladder.

Unfortunately, the state has limited the number of these degrees largely due to opposition from some universities. While they don't provide the relevant programs they are concerned that community colleges will turn into competitors in other program areas. I think most community college applied technology administrators understand this and would accept rules that limit expansion to only the programs that link to specific career ladder professional and technical programs.

There is a bill in the legislature this year that allows the expansion of Bachelor of Applied Science degrees. HB 2655 and SB 6355 will be up for a vote in committee next Wednesday. This is a step in the right direction that will help lead to a system of career pathways through lifelong learning.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

National Strike?

When labor represented a larger share of the private sector, they were able to effectively use strikes to slow down the economy to force the resolution of issues they felt needed attention.

Today, only capital has that power and finance capital is using it. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal headline "New Bank Rules Sink Stock" tells the story. Two years ago, America's bankers brought the national economy to its knees throwing millions of people out of work and forcing government to slash the safety net designed to help the poor and unemployed. In response, the President advanced rules and legislation designed to reign in reckless behavior.

This is the dilemma that Obama faces and the impact on Congressional Democrats is dire. If Obama comes down too hard on banks and finance capital they will strike. The animal spirits of capitalists will become depressed. They will hold back investments and hamper the recovery. Whether that is a conscious choice or an effect is irrelevant.

However, if he doesn't come down on them, the American people will be angry and will take it out on Congressional Democrats. You can see it in the headlines and hear it on the streets. They don't hear us and they don't listen.

Behavioral and neuroscience tells us that people respond to symbols and emotions not ideas and policies. The recession was either caused by reckless finance capitalists or the political incumbents. Is Obama's only responsible choice to back off, lose seats and lose the ability to achieve much of his agenda?