The Problem of Being “Poorly Educated”

 

While political candidates bemoan low minimum wages and one candidate for President states: “I love poorly educated people“; there are currently over three million jobs that are going begging in the US.

 
And despite all of the rhetoric about bringing back the old jobs requiring less education, those jobs that have either left the US or been replaced by technology are simply not coming back.

 

Can’t Find Qualified Workers …

Every month since January 2009, over 20 million Americans have been unemployed or underemployed because they can’t meet the qualifications of those open positions.
 
In the manufacturing sector alone, over 500,000 jobs are going unfilled because employers can’t find the qualified workers that they need.

 

The “Skills Gap” …

At a time with so many people out of work, especially those over 40, how could this be?  It’s called the Skills Gap. 
 
And according to a number of economists, “it’s definitely a concern and it should be a concern to anyone who cares about the future of US workers.”
There are a number of factors preventing these jobs from getting filled. Experts state that job training programs in the US pale beside programs in Europe and Asia.

Easily Automated Tasks …

Just as the shift from an agrarian society to an industrial society changed the education requirements for employment, the shift to an Information Age has affected the workforce in several ways.  
 
It has created a situation in which workers who perform tasks that are easily automated are being forced to find work which involves tasks that are not easily automated. Workers are also being forced to compete in a global job market. 
 
Lastly, workers are being replaced by computers that can do their jobs faster and more effectively. This poses problems for classic industrial workers.

Traditional Middle-Class Jobs …

Jobs traditionally associated with the middle class (assembly line workers, data processors, foremen and supervisors) are beginning to disappear, either through outsourcing or automation.  
 
Individuals who lose their jobs must either move up, joining a group of “knowledge workers” (engineers, doctors, attorneys, teachers, scientists, professors, executives, journalists, consultants), or settle for low-skill, low-wage service jobs.
 
More than 5 years after the official end of the Great Recession, millions of Americans remain unemployed, underemployed, or continue to face uncertainty over how long they can hold on to their jobs in a volatile labor market.

Older Job Seekers …

The labor market has been especially difficult for older job seekers who often experienced long term unemployment, underemployment, age discrimination, and diminished retirement assets.

These individuals, across a wide span of educational levels, job skills, and occupations experienced tremendous economic upheaval during and since the Great Recession. 

Many older workers hope that education and skills training programs will help them remain in their jobs or return to work.

However, adults with less formal education after high school or less job-relevant skills were hit especially hard. Older job seekers who have limited basic skills and literacy are likely to need further education and training in order to return to work, in part because employers are demanding more education and skills from workers than they did in the past.   Employers’ demand for workers with more advanced computer and technology skills may also be a significant barrier to older job seeker.

 

Adults Seeking Education Must …

Adults seeking education and training must choose from thousands of degree and certificate programs offered by colleges or universities, technical or vocational schools, community organizations, or employer associations. Not surprisingly, these options vary widely in character, quality, and cost.

So what is the answer?  Education across all levels of our society that matches the needs of our employers. And while there are many programs to help our older workers, serving on the Board of Advisors of one of them, Western Governors University of Washington has been an eye opener.

This fully accredited on-line university specifically designed for working adults uses a competency based educational model that allows students to not have to relearn subjects in which they can demonstrate deep competency, thus shortening their time to complete their education.

The following statistics are for the total University operating in 20 states.

  • Students: 65,000
  • Graduates: 50,000
  • Average time to a Bachelor’s degree: 2.5 years
  • Average Cost of a Bachelor’s degree: $15,000
  • Average Increase in Wages following degree completion: $10,000 per year.

It is important to note that this is only one way for an employed or unemployed adult to complete an education.  But it is representative of the type of program that will both address the skills gap problem, solve the growing needs of employers for educated workers and do it in an affordable way for the employee.

 

Why Are “We” Writing About This?

Why, you may ask, is a Corporate Restructuring and Reengineering firm writing about adult education. 

Because any successful restructuring begins and ends with the people in the organization.  

From management to professionals to support staff, the quality of the people determines the success of any company and the better employee education, the greater the chance for success.

While some politicians may talk about loving poorly educated people, it would be more productive to focus on programs for education, enabling them to fully participate in our rapidly changing society.