Workforce development and post-secondary education are two related policy conundrums that everyone acknowledges but few agree upon. Two pieces this week break the topics open by challenging conventional wisdom.
- The Atlantic has an incisive piece, “Why Is the U.S. So Bad at Worker Retraining,” that looks at the history of federally sponsored workforce development program.
- The Conversation offers a different take in a piece that asks, “Career Ready out of high school? Why the nation needs to let go of that myth.” The authors, who are from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, acknowledge the importance of post-secondary paths that do not include college. However, they argue that high school training, as currently structured, is insufficient to support the demands on graduates.
The Next Evolution
Rapid changes in politics and technology give rise to thoughts about the ways that our places are changing.
The Atlantic published an article this week that draws attention to a late 2017 report by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG). EIG has developed a system of metrics for measuring distress in communities based on the following data sets: (1) high school diplomas, (2) housing vacancies, (3) adults not working, (4) poverty rates, (5) median income, (6) changes in employment and (7) changes in business establishments. Using Census Bureau data, the report segregates data by zip code and ranks areas on a five-tier scale from “distressed” to “prosperous.”
A couple of findings from the report:
- One in six Americans lives in a distressed zip code, with more than half of those living in the South.
- North Carolina has 25 percent of residents living in distressed zip code and 20 percent of residents living in prosperous zip codes.
In this same vein, the Upshot at New York Times had a detailed post entitled, “What Happens When the Richest U.S. Cities Turn to the World?” The central premise is that “global cities” like New York and San Francisco are increasingly connecting to cities in other countries rather than within the U.S. due, in part, to differences in talent and the pace of innovation.
To put it more harshly, when global cities need other communities today, Ms. Sassen said, it’s often to extract value out of them. New York bankers need Middle America’s mortgages to construct securities. San Francisco start-ups need idle cars everywhere to amass billion-dollar valuations. Online retail giants need cheap land for their warehouses.
The rest of the country may receive the innovations that flow out of global cities, and the benefits to consumers are real. “But by the time that’s done, the cities have already invented something new and made themselves richer again,” Mr. Storper said. “Before anywhere else can catch up, San Francisco has already leapt ahead again with new stuff they’ve invented.”