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For Your Consideration

The Wall Street Journal and the American Enterprise Institute make similar points (here and here) this week cautioning about recent initiatives supporting apprenticeship programs.  The accounts do not suggest that the proposals by President Trump and N.C.’s own Virginia Foxx are misguided but that apprenticeships are not a panacea.  Here are the core points:

  1. Other countries’ apprenticeship models (Germany is often used as a point of comparison) have been adapted over long periods of time and may not transfer easily to the U.S. workforce model.
  2. Recent studies suggest that the short-term benefits of apprenticeship opportunities may leave employees struggling later in their career.
  3. Extending the point, they emphasize that apprenticeship models are workforce development models and not replacements for core education. As the AEI article puts more bluntly, “Training in particular skills for a specific job shouldn’t be seen as a sufficient band-aid for academically struggling students or schools.”

A New Slant

Creative class observer and demographer Richard Florida has a piece in the MIT Technology Review this week about how high-tech companies that have driven economic growth should help support and strengthen the dwindling middle class in their region. His prescriptions are not limited to tech companies and resonate with the discussions going on in many North Carolina communities. The formula is a combination of housing, transportation/mobility, and stable wage environments.

What is interesting is his focus on companies, and specifically tech companies, in making the argument. A lot of the income inequality rhetoric is framed in an individualized manner; it is the ultra rich pulling from the poor and middle class. Florida argues that it is in the technology companies’ self-interest to support their communities. Ultimately, the quality of life that tech companies have helped create depends on economic diversity in the workforce. He contends that their responsibility to support that economic diversity is as crucial as their role in the initial growth.

Dropping Knowledge

Yesterday, Brookings released a research tool profiling the unemployed. “Meet the out-of-work,” is a web-based, interactive report that defines the policy problem, describes the people affected, and lays out common solutions. Technologically, it is engaging and is best explored over 5-10 minutes where a reader can connect through to various links.

Substantively, the report offers several highlights:

  • It explains the sometimes confusing classification differences between the unemployed, those who are out of the workforce and those who are out of work, which is a subsection of the others. The research analysis focuses on the 11.3 million people who are out of work, and which can most benefit from workforce programs.
  • It segments the out-of-work population into seven major groups of similar individuals with shared challenges to employment. The report then profiles two composite examples of persons in these segments.  The seven groups consist of:
    • Young, less-educated, and diverse (11 percent)
    • Less-educated prime-age people; many English language-learners (38 percent)
    • Diverse, less-educated, and eyeing retirement (6 percent)
    • Motivated and moderately educated younger people (14 percent)
    • Moderately educated older people (12 percent)
    • Highly educated and engaged younger people (9 percent)
    • Highly educated, high-income older people (11 percent)
  • While the focus of the report is on profiling, it does a nice job describing the different types of workforce development programs that can help train or place workers.

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