Panel: Higher Education Is Critical To The Future Of The U.S. Workforce

Sep 6, 2012
  |  by Strayer Univers...

PANELISTS

Jamie P. Merisotis
President, Lumina
Foundation
 
 
 
 
 
Charlene M.
Dukes, Ed.D.
President, Prince
George’sCommunity
College, and
President,
Maryland State
Board of Education
Anthony
Carnevale, Ph.D.
Director and
Research Professor,
Georgetown
University Center
on Education and
the Workforce
Robert J. Bennett
Chief Learning
Officer and Vice
President, Human
Resources,
FedEx Express
 
 

 


 

Held in honor of Strayer University’s 120th anniversary, “BuildingTomorrow’sWorkforce Today: The Role of Higher Education in a Global Economy, ”focused on the intersection of workforce development, higher education and U.S. competitiveness in the 21st century. Here are some highlights:
 
IS COLLEGE WORTH THE COST? IS POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION A WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT FOR INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES, STATES AND OUR NATION?
 
JAMIE MERISOTIS: The reality is that college is still overwhelmingly a good investment, and we know for lots of reasons why that is true.Certainly what Tony and his colleagues at the Georgetown Center have helped to bring into sharp focus is the fact that unemployment, jobs and wages are all still highly correlated with educational attainment, and what we’ve seen since the recession began in late 2007 is that your chances of having a job and being an active member of the labor market were significantly diminished if you had only a high school credential or less. Their study shows four-out-of-five people who lost jobs in the recession were people with high school credentials or less. We’re going to need a lot more people to get through college to meet our economic and social needs as a country, and I think that’s where this debate is really going to be in the near term.
 
CHARLENE DUKES: I do think that this is really a nonpartisan issue.If we think that colleges are really worth it, if we know that people are going to be more educated in order to take on the jobs of the future, in order to be good citizens,then we have to have the same commitment to higher education as we do toK–12 education.
 
ANTHONY CARNEVALE: Just let me share one statistic: In 1973, at the end of the post war boom, 70% of working Americans had a high school education or less, and the majority of them were in the middle class. That is,they earned in current dollars somewhere between $35,000 and $85,000 a year. If you look at those numbers in 2010, what you see is that about slightly less than40% of people with a high school education or less are in that middle income range of $35,000 and $85,000. The shift is stunning.We now have an economy where more than 60% of jobs that pay are jobs that require some kind of postsecondary education.
 
BOB BENNETT: I think that college is definitely a worthwhile investment. The problem is that it’s hard to convince someone who doesn’t have a degree, who is handling their personal problems,the economic conditions, family, elder care and other responsibilities,to take time out and to incur debt for an education that has a long-term promise without a short-term return. I think there has to be other support systems in place that will help people make the right decision. Yes, it’s worth the cost for the state, it’s worth the cost for the country, but is it worth the cost for the individual?
 

DO EMPLOYERS LOOK FOR ACCREDITED COLLEGE DEGREES?
 
BOB BENNETT: I think all companies, all prospective managers, look for somebody who has a college degree because you really don’t have any other way to base a decision on their abilities to move forward,their abilities to be successful,their abilities to drive the company or the business to the next level. So, yes,I think a degree is important. The second part, however, is that once you’re employed, what matters is what you have done on the job and what you have proven to be—your areas of expertise, your competency, ability to produce results and provide leadership.
 
ARE SOFT SKILLS SUCH AS LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNICATION EQUALLY IMPORTANT TO TECHNICAL SKILLS?
 
CHARLENE DUKES: Universities certainly have to consider the “soft skills”that people need when they go out into the workforce. Are we really teaching it in our classrooms? Do students have the opportunity to be engaged in team building?Academic learning is critical, but so is applying that learning in a practical setting. We should all be looking at programs that teach those skills.
 
ANTHONY CARNEVALE: Now, you have to have knowledge, but, in addition, you have to use knowledge to solve other problems or to learn more. Problem solving is a skill. Critical thinking is a skill. There’s a whole set of personality traits that are more important now. The one that always takes the lead is conscientiousness. In all the research in industrial psychology, conscientiousness is just as powerful as education level in predicting earnings and career success 
 
HOW DOES THE UNITED STATES RATE VIS-À-VIS THE REST OF THE WORLD?
 
ANTHONY CARNEVALE: The United States has always competed pretty well in large measures since World War II because of the size of our domestic market. We were big. So if we only got 5% of our kids to be good engineers, since we were four times as large,they could be four times as good and we were equal. The difference now is that it’s a global labor market and a global economy, and we’re not the biggest around. The hallmark of American competitiveness is, one, until lately, we were bigger than everybody; and then secondly, we were more flexible.In the end,the quality of our human capital will matter.And I don’t just mean socially—I mean in economic terms. I think there is a broad, almost visceral, recognition of that amongAmericans, among business leaders and among education leaders.
 
WHAT SHOULD UNIVERSITIES LOOK LIKE 10 YEARS FROM NOW?
 
JAMIE MERISOTIS: The higher education system is going to have to focus overwhelmingly on producing credentials of value.Our society is demanding a way of demonstrating to the labor market and to society in general that you have knowledge, skills and abilities. In this knowledge economy, credentials of value are the currency. That’s what’s going to matter most to people. I think that institutions are going to really have to focus on determining what those competencies are and what society needs—the labor market and our democracy in general—and align themselves toward that. The demands are growing so fast that we’re going to have to fundamentally redesign the system of higher education. That’s a big challenge, and I can’t think of a lot of policy areas that are going to require more attention than this one.
 

 

Tags:

Disclaimer

All content provided on Strayer Buzz is for informational purposes only. The views expressed on Strayer Buzz do not necessarily represent those of Strayer Education, Inc., Strayer University, or any of their affiliates. Neither Strayer Education, Inc., Strayer University, nor any of their affiliates make any representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on Strayer Buzz or found by following any link on Strayer Buzz. Neither Strayer Education, Inc., Strayer University, nor any of their affiliates will be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. Neither Strayer Education, Inc., Strayer University, nor any of their affiliates will be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at anytime and without notice.

Request more information

Step 1 of 2