Guest Article

Connecting the Disconnections


The Employment Crisis / A Whole New World

Introduction / An Upside Down World

This 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.

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.

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?

Two things seem to be happening which 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.

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.

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.

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 and responsive systems with greater investments in research and development.
— Gordon Freedman, President
National Laboratory for Education Transformation



Featured Article

“The Newest Economy: Welcome to the Credential Currency Revolution” explores how to operate in a marketplace of sellers (institutional programs) and buyers (employers) as a method of self-regulating the alignment of academic and training offerings with available jobs and careers.

Unlike many nations in the world, the U.S. does not separate students into academic and occupational or trade tracks prior to or during high school. While the U.S. historically had in-depth vocational programs in high schools and continuing education noncredit certifications in colleges, these offerings were de-emphasized in favor of “college for all.”

As a result, the problem now exists that there is no mechanism, government or privately led, to allow courses, programs and training to align with job and career hiring trends. There are proximate measures from job postings culled from the Web and analyses from state employment records, but they are not sufficient to make predictions of where institutions should concentrate their offerings, or what individuals should pursue.

In “The Newest Economy,” Gordon Freedman, president and founder of NLET, describes the broken chain of education and training that stretches across high school, career and technical education, community college, workforce development, university continuing education and into a disconnected and unpredictable labor market. Freedman suggests that credentials alignment may be maximized through the lens of a marketplace.

“The Newest Economy” makes the point that a way to bring coherence to the types of education and training offerings and their connection to available jobs and viable careers is to first view “credentials” broadly. Meaning that a skills badge, technical certification and academic degree are all credentials.

“The Newest Economy” advocates for the formation of a Credential Alliance that includes multiple types of stakeholders and stewards. Contributors to the Newest Economy paper include the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), Credential Engine and GoEducate, Inc., who are jointly exploring the formation of the Credential Alliance to examine integrated solutions to power a more coherent education-to-employment pipeline.

A Message
From The Editor

Hungry Minds is meant to break the bubble of reporting on education, training, education technology and education-to-employment subjects including Career and Technical Education (CTE), Workforce Development and Non Credit certification. These worlds are too complicated, too “insideball,” too sealed off from the people who need work, clear options for education and training, and for employers who are giving up on the K12 and higher education systems. All too often, we are speaking to each other, leaving the people who need these services the most in the dark and leaving employers without options. Millions have been spent by venture, private equity, global philanthropy and government yet we are somehow stuck. HungryMinds will bring the change leaders, thinkers who are inside and outside education and top reporting that looks inside the traditional machinery to a new community of readers, old and new.

Gordon Freedman