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'Today's Education for Tomorrow's Workforce', a view from Dr Anthony P. Carnevale

Exploring the growing link between industry and education, and the changing landscape of the US workforce

During the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States (AMSCUS) Annual Conference, held virtually for the first time this year, Dr Anthony P. Carnevale presented an enlightening talk on ‘Today’s Education for Tomorrow’s Workforce’. Having been appointed by President Bush to serve on the White House commission on Technology and Adult Education, and previously appointed by President Clinton to chair the National Commission on Employment Policy, there are few people better suited to explain the changing effect of globalization, technology, and employment on education. 

And it has changed dramatically; as Dr Carnevale began his session, he took us back to ‘83 with the introduction of automated technology which would lead to the substantial loss of opportunities for those working in repetitive jobs. This mostly affected those without a high school and college degree, with earnings rising for those with higher education certificates. 

This led to a dramatic shift in the American economy; employers wanted employees with a range of general skills, and found that those with college degrees had higher ‘trainability’ and levels of interactions with other employees. This helped to resolve quality problems that came through mass standardisation and production, and developed America’s standing as a flexible, low cost manufacture.

However, this created a significant pressure to fund further education, and in recent years, post-school education and its link to family income have become a principal barrier to opportunities. A child with good test scores that is in the lowest 25% of family income has a 30% chance of getting a good job, versus a 70% chance of getting a good job for children in the highest 25% of family income, even with lower test scores.

Despite this, four-year college degrees are no longer the only way forward, nor do they hold the same weight in accessing good career opportunities. As employers step forward to back work experience and industry-focused education, colleges and universities are beginning to rethink their curriculums, while vocational organizations delivering trade and technical skills are already ahead of the game. 

Policies implemented in the next few years will go a long way to deciding the fate of the employment rate and education sector. There has been increasing pressure in recent years for greater transparency in post-secondary education, and greater access to cheaper, faster college degrees. This could lead to bills that would make college free, or compromising on free community college. There is also speculation that an infrastructure bill could go ahead, which would create 15 million jobs and help to bring back the ‘high school working class’. 

With upcoming policy change and increased research looking at the link between high school, college and career, the future of college education looks set to enter an unsteady phase, while  demand for vocational education increases. The relationship between economy and education has already changed due to technology and globalization, and there is likely to be a greater emphasis on accessing work experience while at college. Colleges such as Texas A&M are trying to create stakeholder value between industry and higher ed; they are creating strategic value for employers by allowing them to invest in the training and curriculum students receive at college, so that they can hire graduates as the employees they want. These kinds of partnerships are becoming more common as students and graduates struggle to gain meaningful work experience or work-based learning, despite the huge employment value it brings. In light of this, those in technical colleges that are already working towards professional certification examinations are likely to find themselves ahead of the game. 

As a professor at Georgetown University, Dr Anthony P. Carnevale explained how they were actively asking alumni to give work experience and internships for current students. As the link between education and careers becomes more reliant, it is becoming even more important to maintain these relationships with alumni in order to support the next generation of employees from your school community. 

ToucanTech is a sponsor of the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States. The ToucanTech system includes a database and CRM, a public website and private portal, and events, email and fundraising solutions. You can find out more about how ToucanTech can support your organization in creating career opportunities through your alumni network here

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