The Education-Employment Crisis: A Critical Overview

Today, there are not only difficult supply chain problems with goods and transport, but human capital production and supply chain problems have emerged, more complex than talent sourcing alone. Plus, the U.S. labor pool is shrinking and teachers, the frontline in replacing that pool, are themselves quitting and not being replaced. This is troubling.

Suddenly, we lack teachers, truck drivers, port workers and others who are unmoved by higher wages, better benefits and signing bonuses. It is not only about work, but about working right. A new form of “un-organized” collective bargaining is emerging, where employees or potential employees now operate in a seller’s market, with new demands, which is heading toward rising inflation.

The simple truths of getting an education, earning technical certification and finding a job no longer adhere to the American economic gospel. Available jobs outnumber the number of unemployed and people are quitting their jobs at unprecedented rates. Many others are simply not motivated to explore education and training or look for work. Why is this?

Prior to the pandemic, education, training and employment were heading for turmoil. A year into the pandemic, people began to wonder, would the world snap back once the virus was under control. Another year later, all bets are off.

This is not simply A = B. Covid did not just lead to education, training and employment turmoil, but to something deeper. History shows pandemics cause societal change, just as some cataclysmic events cause the natural world to change.  I explore these issues and come to several preliminary conclusions in my new paper, The Education-Employment Crisis: A Critical Overview.”

Two things seem to be happening now which are new and this paper explores. One, it’s not just about work. The hierarchical organization of education, employers and government no longer seem to have unwavering control over decision-making and behaviors. Two, it’s impossible to understand what being “online from home” for two years has created in terms of expectations from place-based education, training and employment or their traditional forms and methods.

The paper is the result of a review of contemporary literature combined with numerous conversations with high school and college-to-work institutions, with state labor agencies, employers, economists and technology and media developers in and outside of education and training. What is highlighted here is the need for the traditional worlds of education, training, employment, and labor information to be transformed by modern methods that reach all people with engaging and relevant solutions.

To operate in complex commercial, service and social markets transacted and online and off, the production and organization of human capacity has to move toward more complex

Gordon Freedman
National Laboratory for Education Transformation