America’s educational system is broken

I was fortunate to attend Wednesday the CED’s Postsecondary Education Summit on Business Leadership for 21st Century Education Policies, as well as their annual fundraising dinner.  The CED is a leader in leveraging the business community to promote rational economic policies; I was very impressed by the people they have on their team.

After opening remarks by Hilary Pennington, Director of Education, Postsecondary Success & Special Initiatives, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, following are my notes on the somewhat terrifying keynote by Carl Camden, President and CEO, Kelly Services.

9m unemployed in the US is an underestimate; we’re more comfortable with 14-15m

There are approximately 2.5m unfilled jobs out there.

The mismatch in supply & demand is rising up to DC’s view.

The skills mismatch is based in the secondary education system.

Kelly has large numbers of jobs that can’t be filled.

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When we move the work to places where it can be done, we’re seen as fat cat CEO outsourcers.

Biggest mismatch is lack of STEM grads/ STEM technicians

Jobs last on average 3 years.  43% of workforce is not tied to a permanent employer.  The social contract between employers and employees has been broken.

In addition, the social contract between the education system and employers is also broken.

– When the majority of your customers do not complete a degree, you have a broken system.

– When they have more debt than they can pay back, you have a broken system.

– When your funders (government/employers/taxpayers) complain they’re not getting back the people they need, you have a broken system.

We’re not doing workforce planning in this country, like Germany/Singapore do.

Let’s hold schools accountable.

This requires innovation, speed, & efficiency—3 words we don’t usually associate with post-secondary education.

We need to let go of our idealized view of the American educational experience.

When I tell government officials that employment as we know it is disappearing, I’m greeted with disbelief.

The vision that college is applicable to everyone is also wrong.

75% of post-secondary students are commuters.  Half attend community colleges.  1 out of 4 have dependent child.  They choose school because it’s near work/fits babysitting schedule.  Half work 20+ hours/week.

The fastest-growing group of students are the over-50s.  many are shooting for an Associates degree, but many won’t get it.

The abysmal completion rates are the results of an outdated dream of what education should be .  The #1 reason for failing to complete is students need to work/make money.

We are long overdue for a system that reflects reality.

Today’s students need faster, more flexible outcomes.  Tracks/degrees that can be completed in weeks/months, not semesters.

Some schools offer very flexible degrees, but not enough.

It’s time to reinvent how we educate.  The key to success is affordability/can be done in time-effective fashion.

When businesses innovate, they’re copied rapidly.  Not true in education.

There are solutions that work and can be implemented quickly.

The % of students graduating with STEM credentials dropped from 11% to 9%.  We rank 27th out of 42 in the OECD in students graduating with STEM credentials.  We graduate more visual & performing arts majors than engineers.  Our customer Siemens has 3500 open engineering jobs they can’t fill.  Our number of customer orders open >30 days is growing at 10-15% /month.

Deloitte’s new study shows there are 600,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs in the US that can’t be filled: Machinists, operators, technician positions.  Average age of a tool & die worker is high 50s.

In the academic world, the incentive is: the better a teacher you are, the less you have to teach.

Other countries give you more financial support if you’re getting a degree that’s judged to be in the national interest.  We should do that.  Just giving speeches about how important STEM is isn’t working.  We should forgive 50% of a STEM loan upon graduation, and the remainder if you’re in the profession 5 years later.

We should differentially incent per-pupil comp for the top institutions in the state, vs. the lower-tier institutions.  We should be willing to shut down institutions with inadequate completion rates.

Why isn’t there a fast-track for curriculum changes?  It takes 2 years; getting a building permit takes a month.

We’re overdue in acknowledging college for all is not a sound policy.

This was followed by a Panel Discussion on Productivity, with:
Pat Callan, Founding President, National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (moderator)
Stan Litow, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs & President, IBM International Foundation
Susan Lund, Director of Research, McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey & Company
Marilyn Reznick, Vice President for Education, AT &T

Mr. Pat Callan, Project Director for CED education

26% of those who register in a community college get their 2-year degree at the end of 6 years.

In Chicago’s 7 city colleges, just 7% get a degree at the end of 6 years.

Stan Litow

We started in Brooklyn P-TECH, a school for grades 9-14.  We revised curriculum working with CUNY to make sure that each course was connected to common course standards, and connected to skills required in workplace.  99% attendance.  No screening for admission.  1/3 students have reading problems.  Graduates receive a high school diploma and a no-cost Associate’s in Applied Science degree, and are well positioned for jobs at IBM and other similar employers.  This model can be used for jobs in health care, advanced manufacturing, hospitality, etc.

Susan Lund

The number of jobs for college graduates has grown every year, even during this recession.

30% of companies we surveyed have jobs open >6 months.

There is a shortage of 1.5m college grads, plus 2m college dropouts who are not likely to find jobs.

Just creating a database of what jobs are out there and what you have to do to get there would help.

Wesleyan University in Ohio organizes a cohort of students who all go thru a program together, developing a sense of community.  It creates a much higher completion rate.

Marilyn Reznick

Educational institutions have less money, and simultaneous pressure to increase completion rates.  That combination doesn’t work.

Photo source.

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