May 20th, 2012
A Bloomberg editorial (May 17) focused on technology driven employment change, and the decline of middle class wages. The writer’s recommendations to correct the problem included “college completion,” and even more importantly, the need to prepare “trainable” workers. Specifically, the quote at the end of the editorial is:
“…matching people to jobs will need to be done more quickly and with greater flexibility. Education in the U.S. and other advanced economies faces a new and far-reaching challenge. The worker of the future needs to be trained to be trainable.” Bloomberg
College completion is critical for those choosing college since time spent collecting college credits without completion of a degree has been shown to be a colossal waste of financial and human resources. Of greatest interest is the trainable recommendation. This is one of the reasons I see great value in the adoption of the National Career Readiness Certificate.
The central point in my mind is how does trainable add value when so few employers are willing and able to train new workers effectively? I talk to employers who still hope someone else will train their employees, either government or some other employer!
So Bloomberg points out a major conundrum. We need trainable workers who can adapt to a changing economy, but we are faced with employers who do not want to bother training employees. This is why we see article after article where employers complain that despite high unemployment, they cannot find anyone who knows the jobs that are available. Are we to believe these people are all untrainable? Nonsense! Many have bachelors degrees. The problem is that employers are unwilling or unable to provide needed training. This is a discussion that should have national attention. “If the trainee hasn’t learned, the trainer hasn’t trained.”
January 10th, 2012
The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) recently posted guidance that employers requiring a high school diploma, used as a employee screening tool, may be violating the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA.) This guidance explains that the job must now be defined based on necessary worker skills and detailed as to how the high school diploma matches the job skill criteria. This determination could have long-range impact in the use of diplomas as blanket screening tools. Unlike industry-based certification, diplomas and degrees from schools seldom define demonstrated and assessed skills. This EEOC guidance could speed the adoption of skill-based, industry driven, skill certification. Currently, the US Department of Labor lists over 4,400 industry-based certifications on the Certification Finder at the CareerOneStop.com website. These certifications will rise in importance to employers while education-based credentials may fade. Effective skill development on the job requires a structured approach based on the defined skills used in the workplace. In such a structured OJT workplace, meeting this EEOC guidance will be readily accomplished, and new employees quickly trained in the need skills.
October 26th, 2011
The Wall Street Journal article of October 24 titled “Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need” made the important point that business should stop whining about the failure of government funded education to provide America’s skilled workforce. What other government programs have proven to be successful? Why do companies believe government will solve their training needs?
Expecting miraculous solutions to skill shortages is a folly born of the experience for 30+ years of mobile baby-boomers who (with extensive on-the-job training available to be hired) solving company training problems by simply responding to a “help wanted” advertisement. The days of plentiful skilled baby boomers are quickly ending.
The foundational skills of applied math and applied reading are often the limits of the educational system’s reach. Educational programs cannot front-load the 90% of job specific skills that make companies competitive and profitable. On-the-job learning (with or without a formal apprenticeship) is where real learning takes place. Many companies have replaced classroom employee training with computer-based training. This solution hasn’t replaced on-the-job training (OJT). This gap between training and work is where Structured OJT fits. Companies are now compelled to take responsibility to develop and manage their own knowledge and skill environment. Training, or it’s 21st century replacement, web-based learning, must be followed with Structured OJT if real learning is to be timely and effective. This is the only way to address the problem of “getting the employees they need” as highlighted in the Wall Street Journal.
July 28th, 2011
News stories often appear discussing the mismatch between workforce skills and the economy’s available jobs. The common recommendation is “more taxes to community colleges and technical institutes.” The likelihood of that approach occurring is low given limited state funding. And, with the costs of post-secondary education rising rapidly, and the ability to benefit from classroom learning as a constraint for many, what other solutions exist?
The Urban Institute and Dr. Robert Lerman have been advocating for expansion of the overlooked Apprenticeship approach to workforce development. Proven effective at a lower cost and with higher effectiveness than community colleges, the time is right. Quoting Dr. Lerman from “What to Do about the New Unemployment”–“the evidence shows that gains from apprenticeship far exceed even the gains for technical training in community colleges.”
The effectiveness of apprenticeship is multiplied with the addition of Structured On-The-Job Training. Here is a case study that describes how the addition of SOJT to what is commonly only unstructured OJT in an apprenticeship program produces important learning gains as described in this article. So this effective combination is the undiscovered solution. Don’t expect higher education and their apologists for institutionalized learning to recommend this alternative.
July 8th, 2011
During the time I was engaged in training sales and delivery in China, I was impressed as to how important a diploma or certificate was to everyone we met. At the end of a training event; a large and necessarily ornate (usually red and gold) certificate was required. These diplomas and certificates were all important. It was clear that the piece of “papah” was more important than the skills to be trained. This was obvious as we often taught basic management skills to college educated managers.
America is emulating the Chinese in our frenzied paper chase. When talking to college students, you’ll hear again and again–I just need the diploma! Many employers, lacking any method to assess skills, ask for a degree as a default screening method. Degrees and certificates have proliferated to the point where a college credential is no assurance of capability to learn to do the job. All this is occurring while we tell young people there is no way to win without college. Our culture encourages students to accrue student debt load on par with the mortgage crisis. Unfortunately, many students find themselves “underwater” after graduation owing more than the degree is worth in the marketplace.
The “pay for paper rather than skills” problem can be resolved when companies and organizations have analyzed the jobs and tasks that comprise the process used throughout the company or organization. The foundational skills needed on a job can be known (using the WorkKeys system) making it possible to hire truly trainable applicants.
New hire training, and cross training, can then be readily accomplished through the application of Structured OJT. Paying for skills, rather than a piece of paper, would improve our companies and improve our schools. We could save young people, and taxpayers, a lot of money.
June 16th, 2011
The past week produced news regarding President Obama’s speech on the topic of the need to expand manufacturing, and the related need to train the manufacturing workforce. As expected, it is a government funded solution focused on grants, and the need for new money for higher education.
The White House press release is here.
The Aspen Institute has led much of this initiative. Aspen’s leader is tied to the Obama administration. You’ll see the National Association of Manufacturers is involved, as are ACT and others including the Lumina Foundation that is a primary source of the “everyone must go to college” message.
The federal government plan has merit, and makes some important points. However, there is a fatal flaw. That flaw is a self-serving message promulgated by the public higher education enterprise. That flawed message is that higher education trains workers for business and industry. In fact, higher education promotes this message to justify the voracious appetite for tax money and ever higher tuition. The evidence is that about 85 to 90 percent of job knowledge is learned on the job. Education develops the foundational skills (applied math, reading for understanding, etc.) that support on-the-job learning. The USA developed all the skills we needed to ramp up industry to win WWII in a very short time by doing the training within industry using the Training Within Industry Service. The TGK SOJT Trainer System builds on and expands the TWI model.
Policy leaders, and businesses themselves have been misled by the message that taxpayers must train workers. As long as the higher education enterprise persuades business to feel powerless to meet their own needs for a trained workforce–we will struggle with higher education’s demands for ever more money (and we will wring our hands over the nationally escalating tuition costs and low graduation rates.) Manufacturing has the tools (SOJT and Registered Apprenticeship) to meet their workforce skill needs. When these tools are used we will solve the worker training/retraining problem.
I recommend reading a recent column by Mike Collins, author of Saving American Manufacturing, on Manufacturing.Net titled America’s Skilled Worker Shortage: Part II.
June 9th, 2011
“The Ministry of Employment and Labor, Republic of Korea, is now conducting a pilot program to implement structured on-the-job training (S-OJT), especially in small and medium-sized enterprises. While many nations provide financial incentives to encourage use of OJT, the Korean pilot program differs in that it establishes specific requirements on how the OJT should be carried out. That is, in order for companies to be reimbursed from the national training fund, they must first adopt certain standards of training practice. The Korean pilot program will include a range of courses and workshops for company staff, including a certificate program for S-OJT trainers, and a network of field consultants who will provide on-site advice to company staff. The pilot program is being administered through the Korea University of Technology and Seoul National University.” OSU June 2011
June 1st, 2011
Welcome to the new Ketchum Group website. We have completed an extensive update and expansion of the site; we hope you find the information useful. This blog will focus on work-based learning and on-the-job training solutions. America’s economy needs apprenticeship and effective employee training strategies more than ever–thanks to retiring skilled workers and the shortage of skilled younger workers. We’ll post articles and ideas to help readers make informed training choices. Let us know what you think.