There is a lot of skepticism about a skill shortage in technical occupations –– the most publicized are in manufacturing –– because employers seem to be doing the opposite of what they should to respond to shortages. Mainly not raising (in many cases cutting) wages and benefits, but also erecting barriers to hiring, filling vacancies with contingent and/or part time work, etc. (The MIT study I wrote about recently which declared the manufacturing skills shortage a myth is representative of this wide spread skepticism.)
MiBiz deals with the subject in an interesting story on manufacturing in West Michigan. The article reports on a presentation by Upjohn Institute economist George Erickcek to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids:
“I’m not sure there is so much of a skills gap, as a wage gap,” he said. “Wages for production workers across the Midwest have stagnated over the past three to five years. It’s possible some of the firms who are paying low wages are unable to attract the workers they need because of the inadequate wage and benefit packages they are offering. Nationwide, a lot of employers also are being picky about their new hires. They want to find a person who fits in well, needs little training, and is willing to work for lower wages. Otherwise, they don’t fill the open jobs.” (Emphasis added.)
The article also features the hiring practices of Autocam Corp. Contrast them to the all too common employer practices Erickcek identified:
Now Bueche (Madalyn Bueche, a manufacturing apprentice) works 25 hours each week at Autocam and takes three or four classes during the afternoons at Grand Rapids Community College via the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) program. … Autocam pays her while working and also pays for her college classes. Autocam workers in the AMP apprenticeship program start at $13 an hour while taking courses and can make more than $17 per hour by the end of the program. In a few years, when Bueche earns her associate degree at GRCC, she’ll be eligible to pursue a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering at Ferris State University. Autocam will pick up the tab for her undergraduate degree as well. Both programs are taught at the GRCC Applied Technology Center in downtown Grand Rapids. … “We found some of these individuals became great techs and wanted to go beyond an associate’s degree,” he (John Kennedy, Autocam President) said. “So we sent them to engineering school, and they came out with bachelor’s degrees. Now they have hands-on work experience as well as college experience. When they reach the top and become hot-shot techs, they’ll be making $30 an hour and travel the world to our other plants to fix problems.”
$13 an hour as an apprentice, $17 an hour as a technician, $30 an hour as an engineer and tuition at both community college and university paid for. And Ms. Bunche found out about the occupation and apprentice program at an employer open house. That is how employers deal with labor/skill shortages. Economics 101 teaches that when demand exceeds supply prices (in this case wages and benefits) go up. Its how you bring supply and demand into equilibrium. Its what market economies do well. No need for government intervention to pick occupations for students to pursue or to provide training subsidies for chosen industries and occupations.
So I was reading, not for work, a New York Times article on the architecture of Columbus, Indiana when I came across this: It was, in fact, J. Irwin Miller, scion of the Irwin-Miller family and arts patron, who transformed Columbus into an architectural mecca. As head of the Cummins Engine Company for 30 years, Mr. Miller reasoned that extraordinary buildings would help Cummins lure top talent to the rural Midwest. (Emphasis added.)
All of sudden, I was reading it for work. In the 1950s the CEO of the Cummins Engine Company in a small southern Indiana town understood, what we are still having trouble understanding today in Michigan, that place matters. That quality of place is key to attracting the talent that is essential to successful enterprises and local economies. Miller thought it a good investment for his company and community to commission such noted architects as Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, I. M. Pei, Harry Weese, Robert A. M. Stern, Richard Meier, Kevin Roche, Robert Venturi and Cesar Pelli. Pretty amazing!
What was important in the Fifties is almost certainly more important today. Mobile talent –– particularly young –– value quality of place in choosing where they live and work after college. Quality of place isn’t something you do after you grow the economy and have more resources to do the extras. It is one of the essentials that you do to grow the economy. The arts and culture –– including architecture and reusing old buildings –– matter. So do outdoor recreation and parks. Maybe most important is big city walkable, high density, mixed-use neighborhoods tied together by transit.
Alan Ehrenhalt reports in The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City that political and business leadership in the South increasingly get it. He writes:
In the first decade of the new century, in cities all over the American South and Southwest, something puzzlingly happened. … leaders of these sprawl-based conurbations that have grown enormously in the past generation began to express deep longing for a downtown. … So it was in a remarkably few years, Phoenix and Dallas and Charlotte did things they would have been considered unthinkable a decade or two before. They spent billions of public dollars on light-rail transit systems; they drafted long-term ‘vision” documents that projected a future in which downtowns were friendly to pedestrians rather than automobiles; they won voter support for striking new public buildings and placed them as close to the center of the city as they could.
Why did they want those things? … the desire to recruit and retain big corporations, and the sense these companies were uneasy locating in a metropolis without a center. … This was a common refrain across the big Sun Belt cities. In the words of Michael Smith, Charlotte’s director of downtown development, the bankers who dominated the town’s economic strategy felt they had to have downtown amenities “to attract hip young professionals.” Virtually all of these Sun Belt cities agrees with the geographer Richard Florida that future prosperity depended on the ability to lure the “creative class,” and that this could be done only with a thriving urban culture. (Emphasis added.)
Michigan’s future success is in large part dependent on our political and, a larger portion of, business leadership understanding what Mr. Miller understood more than a half century ago and political and business leadership in most American big metropolitan areas understand today. That the models for future economic success in a flattening world are New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland plus non costal cities like Minneapolis, Denver and Madison. That the path to future prosperity is increasingly talent driven and that to concentrate talent you need a big metropolitan area anchored by a vibrant central city with the quality of place increasingly mobile talent values.
Thought provoking essay by Walter Russell Mead for the American Interest entitled: The job crisis: Bigger than you think. Worth reading!
Mead tells well the story Michigan Future has been describing for years. That just as more than a century ago when agriculture could no longer be a source of a prosperous America, the same is true today. The mass production economy that anchored 20th Century American –– and particularly Michigan–– prosperity can not be the anchor of a prosperous 21st Century America. Future American and Michigan prosperity most be built on a new economy.
Essentially, the problem is this: automation and IT are moving routine processing, whether what’s being processed is information or matter, out of the realm of human work and into the realm of machines. Factory floors are increasingly automated places where fewer and fewer human beings are needed to transform raw materials into finished products; clerical work and many forms of mass employment in business, government and management are also increasingly performed more economically by computers than by trained human beings.
The transformation is only beginning to kick in. Self driving cars and trucks may reduce the need for human beings in the transportation and freight industries. Information processing is beginning to change the nature of the legal profession and even as law school applications fall by almost 50 percent there is much more change to come. Computer assisted diagnosis is making itself felt in health care. MOOCs are likely to change the way much of higher ed works.
… automation and globalization aren’t going away; in both good times and bad the foundations of the old social order will continue to erode. … The old jobs are going away and they aren’t coming back. More, we can’t fix the problem by trying to create new jobs in factories or traditional office bureaucracies to replace the ones going away. We need new kinds of jobs that don’t involve manufacturing or traditional forms of information processing.
Unlike many others, Mead is optimistic that we can and will build a more prosperous America just as we did a century ago after the decline of agriculture. But to do so will require fundamental change from all of us. There are no political levers available to make the old economy work again. He writes:
In the 19th century most Americans spent their time working with animals and plants outdoors in the country. In the 20th century most Americans spent their time pushing paper in offices or bashing widgets in factories. In the 21st century most of us are going to work with people, providing services that enhance each others’ lives.
… A service economy resting on the high productivity agriculture, manufacturing and information processing will be a more affluent and a more human economy than what we have now. Human energy will be liberated from wringing the bare necessities from a reluctant nature; energy and talent will flow into making life more beautiful, more interesting, more entertaining and easier to use. By 1960 few American suburbanites really envied their hardscrabble, uneducated ancestors shivering through the winter in sod huts on the open prairie; one suspects that few Americans in 2060 will be pining for the glorious old days of 9 to 5 at GM.
But the change will come hard. The tax system and the financial system will have to change to promote the rise of a new world of jobs. The educational system will have to change to prepare young people for new kinds of lives. We are going to have to make all kinds of changes as our society comes to embody a new kind of economic logic. The changes won’t be easy but they aren’t optional.
Interesting Businessweek article entitled What’s wrong with the U.S. Job market?. It’s what we should debating.
The answer is clearly not the one we are hearing increasingly: that kids are getting too much education. That if only college aged students got technical rather than liberal arts degrees far more folks would be working. What nonsense!
As the article makes clear, the high unemployment rate understates the job creation challenge. Most worrisome is that the employment-to-population ratio is down to 58.6% even lower than during the 2007-09 Great Recession. In December 2007 –– the month the Great Recession started –– it was 62.7%. It’s unprecedented that the labor market has kept falling in an expansion.
Peter Coy, the article’s author, explores both supply and demand explanations for the absence of jobs. Supply being that people have the wrong skills for today’s jobs. This is that we have too little education attainment, not too much. On the demand side that employers don’t need to add workers due to a combination of globalization, technology and too little consumer demand for goods and services made worse by fiscal policy at the state and federal level to cut government spending to balance budgets rather than stimulate job creation.
Coy concludes: Five years since the start of the unemployment crisis, the problem with the U.S. labor market isn’t weak supply or weak demand. It’s both. At the same time, plenty of good and innovative ideas for how to put more Americans back to work are out there. Fixing aging infrastructure is a job generator that’s a no-brainer at today’s low interest rates. Youth jobs programs need more funding, not less. Jeff Madrick, a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, calls for a revival of “Fordism”—Henry Ford’s sensible idea of paying workers enough to afford what’s for sale. All that’s needed is the will to act.
Exactly. Why we are not debating job creation strategies is unfathomable. Governor Blanchard responded to an unemployment rate of more than 15% the year before he was elected with a big transportation bond program and the Michigan Youth Corps that put thousands of young people to work. They worked! Why is it that no one –– in either party –– has even proposed an aggressive job creation agenda like Jim Blanchard? Its time we put putting people to work at the top of the nation’s and state’s agenda.
Both Catherine Rampell of the New York Times and Matthew O’Brien of the Atlantic have articles (which you can find here and here) on the continuing evidence that those with four year degrees have done best since the onset of the Great Recession. It’ s not close!
Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data through March 2013 reveals this jobs performance sine December 2009. (College graduate means four year degrees or more. Some college no BA includes those with associates degrees.)
The bottom line as Rampell writes is: “In other words, college-educated workers have gobbled up all of the net job gains. In fact there are now more employed college graduates than there are employed high school graduates and high school dropouts put together.” (Emphasis added.)
Rampell also provides the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data (through 2011) on employment by education status for those in their twenties. Same story, but not as good results.
As O’Brien writes: “During the recession, college graduates didn’t lose many jobs, while everyone else did. But during the recovery, college grads have gained the most jobs, while everyone else mostly hasn’t. … People without any postsecondary education not only got hit hardest during the downturn, but have also gotten hit during the upturn. In other words, they have even lost jobs during the recovery. Remember that the next time a college grad (or anyone else) tells you college isn’t worth it anymore.”
Phil Power, the terrific founder of the Center for Michigan, recently wrote a column for Bridge entitled: Schools, colleges aren’t preparing students for careers in Michigan. I find the title quite troubling. It assumes that the purpose of schools and colleges is preparing Michigan students for Michigan jobs and careers. It is the same thinking behind the increasingly popular notion that education should be the supplier of workers to meet the demands of Michigan employers.
As we explored previously it seems to me that the education system that we should want for all of our kids is the one the affluent want for their kids. As I wrote, the common characteristics of the k-16 schools most of their kids and grandkids attend are: “An education that prepares students for adult life in all its dimensions, not just for a job or even a career. An education that prepares students to pursue their dreams any place on the planet, not just here in Michigan. An education that is about being a lifelong learner, not just someone that scores well on a standardized test today.” Those –– not preparing students for Michigan careers –– should be the goals of our education system for all Michigan students.
In another post I explored more directly the notion that Michigan schools and colleges should be about preparing Michigan students for jobs with Michigan employers. I wrote then (October 2011):
For more than a century what it has meant to be a Michigan resident and taxpayer is access at affordable rates to a world class system of public higher education that prepares students to better take advantage of life’s opportunities no matter where you choose to live and work after college. It was one of the great benefits of being a Michigan resident. And it served us well – both as individuals and as a state.
… Our Governor, Larry Page and Eli Broad are among the thousands of kids who grew up in Michigan, graduated from a Michigan public universities and made their fortune elsewhere. Were they well served by our public higher education system? Of course they were. Did they do something wrong – rip off Michigan taxpayers – when they decided to use their terrific education someplace other than Michigan? Of course not.
Limiting public higher education to just focusing on the current needs of Michigan employers or what some government analysts think Michigan jobs of the near future will be will inevitably reduce the quality of our public higher education system. Courses and other programming that make a university great will be eliminated because they are not aligned with the needs of Michigan employers. The consequence: the same proportion of the next generation of Snyder’s, Page’s and Broad’s will still choose to live and work outside of Michigan but now they will be far more likely to go to college outside of Michigan as well. They will want an education – as you do for your kids and grandkids – that prepares them for global opportunities, not just those available in Michigan.
Bloomberg Businessweek just published their New Rules for the modern workplace. Their list:
Rule No. 1: Your job is temporary. Where you start isn’t where you’ll end up. Your job, company, and profession may completely change because of mergers and acquisitions, layoffs, outsourcing, automation, and various other factors that are outside your control.
Rule No. 2: Do not let your job description confine you. … While you’re managing your role, you should be acquiring new skills to help carry you to your next role.
Rule No. 3: Your Rolodex is more important than your knowledge base. We’ve moved from the information economy to the social economy. Companies are hiring based on cultural fit, connections, and soft skills over a candidate’s ability to get the job done.
Rule No. 4: Your experiences matter more than your title.
Rule No. 5: Your personal reputation is your greatest asset.
Add these to the non job specific attributes that we have explored in previous posts that employers are increasingly looking for and that will most define who has successful careers in the future. And then ask yourself whether policy makers in emphasizing standardized test results, job specific skills and online learning are moving k-16 education towards or away from the economy of the future.
Harvard’s Tony Wagner in his interview with Thomas Friedman I wrote about in my last post clearly thinks the answer is no. Friedman writes:
“We teach and test things most students have no interest in and will never need, and facts that they can Google and will forget as soon as the test is over,” said Wagner. … More than a century ago, we ‘reinvented’ the one-room schoolhouse and created factory schools for the industrial economy. Reimagining schools for the 21st-century must be our highest priority. We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.” (Emphasis added.)
… “Teachers,” he said, “need to coach students to performance excellence, and principals must be instructional leaders who create the culture of collaboration required to innovate. But what gets tested is what gets taught, and so we need ‘Accountability 2.0.’ All students should have digital portfolios to show evidence of mastery of skills like critical thinking and communication, which they build up right through K-12 and postsecondary. Selective use of high-quality tests, like the College and Work Readiness Assessment, is important. Finally, teachers should be judged on evidence of improvement in students’ work through the year — instead of a score on a bubble test in May. We need lab schools where students earn a high school diploma by completing a series of skill-based ‘merit badges’ in things like entrepreneurship. And schools of education where all new teachers have ‘residencies’ with master teachers and performance standards — not content standards — must become the new normal throughout the system.”
Jack Lessenberry in a Michigan Radio commentary entitled Education for education’s sake also would answer no. (In the column Lessenberry is critical of remarks made by State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. Mike –– a terrific member of the Michigan Future Leadership Council –– responds in a podcast that you can find here. I know they both agree that we need an education system that provides all students with broad, rather than narrow job specific, skills building.)
There’s nothing wrong with education for education’s sake—if that means teaching people how to think, and how to learn. There is also nothing wrong with knowing lots of things that are part of culture and civilization, even if they aren’t knowledge that can immediately be converted into cash. The schools cannot possibly teach students how to cope with the technology or the tax structure that they’ll need to know in the year 2035, because we have no idea what that technology will be.
The woman with whom I share my life spends her days digitizing archives and designing and creating online catalogs for special library collections. These are not things she learned in high school or college, because the technology hadn’t been invented, and partly because she hadn’t developed an interest in that field. Instead, she studied languages and comparative literature. She didn’t learn how to do modern computer coding till she was in her 50s. I didn’t study journalism until graduate school. But I studied other things that equipped my mind with a set of intellectual furniture and the tools to try to keep learning and figuring stuff out.
… whenever I hear people say that education should be geared to the needs of a particular set of employers or a specific job, I think of Aldous Huxley’s nightmare novel, “Brave New World,” where humans were rigorously selected for certain tasks before birth, and the lower orders kept dumb and ignorant.
… Doug Rothwell, the CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan does understand what education is, and said so yesterday. “We need people with the skills to adapt to changes in their careers,” he said, adding, “A lot of that comes from a good liberal arts education.” From where I sit, I couldn’t agree more.
Our policy makers have a lot to learn from folks like Wagner, Lessenberry, Rothwell and so many others –– including most importantly many employers –– who understand that it is broad skills –– many not cognitive or job specific –– that matter most to success in the economy of the future. Until they learn those lessons we are in real danger of preparing our children and grandchildren for an economy that no longer exists with a huge cost to both them and our economy. Not smart!
As we explored in my last post, factory jobs are a declining component of the American economy. That is an irreversible reality. The question is “how do we square that reality with the constant drumbeat from manufacturers and their policy and press allies that there is a critical shortage of factory workers today and tomorrow, particularly in high skill factory work?”
Manufacturing & Technology News published an interesting article on the topic entitled MIT Drills Into The Manufacturing Skills Shortage And Finds That It Doesn’t Really Exist. They write: “The widely reported and discussed shortage of 600,000 skilled workers for current vacancies in the manufacturing sector is a myth. No shortage on such a scale exists, according to “fact-based and concrete” research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” (Emphasis added.)
The article continues:
“The argument that there is a widespread skills shortage is flawed,” says Paul Osterman, professor of human resources and management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “There are so many millions of unemployed blue-collar workers out there that it’s hard to believe that firms can’t find somebody. If a shortage of skilled manufacturing employees did exist then, in a market-based economy, the wages of workers in demand would be rising. But they are not. Potential workers viewing career options understand principles of supply and demand and would start training themselves for the hundreds of thousands of open positions in manufacturing. But they are not. “Elementary economics says that if there is a shortfall of a factor of something that you need, you raise the price to get it, but you don’t see that” happening in the manufacturing jobs market, says Osterman, whose research is part of the large-scale “Production in the Innovation Economy” (PIE) research project taking place at MIT. If there was a shortage of skilled workers, companies would increase their internal training programs, but there is evidence that companies have, in fact, reduced such programs. (Emphasis added.)
A side bar to the article contains average hourly earnings for American production workers from 1964 to 2013 corrected for inflation. It peaks in 1972 and has fallen about 6% since then. The 2013 average hourly earnings is about 1.5% below what it was in 2009. Data tabulated by the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives show that the average manufacturing wage in Michigan has fallen 6.4% since 2008 not corrected for inflation.
As we have written previously it is likely –– mainly because of retirements –– that there will be an unmet demand in the future for skilled factory work. There is a need now and probably more so in the future to attract and train workers for these jobs. But the evidence is pretty compelling that the shortage of skilled factory workers is exaggerated, that employers’ own actions are a major contributor to whatever shortages exits and that the demand for skilled factory workers in the future is certainly no greater (more likely less than) in many other industries and occupations.
Both President Obama in his State of the Union address and Governor Snyder in his State of the State speech identified manufacturing as a key component of their economic growth strategy. Unfortunately, almost certainly, if the goal is more and better jobs it won’t work.
In a terrific Atlantic Cities column entitled Sorry Mr. President, Manufacturing Will Not Save Us Richard Florida makes the case that factory work is no longer the path to future American –– or Michigan –– prosperity. (Its the case that Don Grimes and I have been writing about for years.) Florida writes: “After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. … While there is much to applaud about the recent revival of American industry, manufacturing is simply insufficient to help revive lagging industrial regions or power the job creation the nation so badly needs.”
He goes on to list the reasons why that is the case:
- Manufacturing is not a big job generator. “American manufacturing is making a comeback, but is remains an anemic job creator. Manufacturing output is projected to grow from $4.4 trillion in 2010 to a projected $5.7 trillion by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. … But “the BLS projects the U.S. will lose another 73,100 manufacturing jobs by 2020, as manufacturing falls to just seven percent of total employment.”
- Many factory job are no longer high wage jobs. “Production workers across the United States average just $34,220 per year according to the BLS, less than half that of knowledge, professional and creative workers ($70,890) and not that much more than what low skill service workers in fields like food preparation, clerical work and retail sales ($30,597) take home.”
- Manufacturing does not translate into local economic growth and development. Since 2000, “employment in high manufacturing counties experienced a five percent decline, employment in the rest of the nation’s counties increased by five percent “revealing a stark divergence,” according the report” (from the Cleveland Fed).
(The New York Times recently published a related article entitled Rumors of a cheap-energy boom remain just that. Cheap energy was supposed to make American manufacturing more competitive, ultimately creating a million or more jobs. The Times reports little new factory jobs so far and no realistic hope for lots of factory jobs in the future.)
Florida concludes: When all is said and done, it’s not manufacturing that drives economic growth and creates new jobs, but innovation, creativity and talent. The big job generators for the past several decades and for the foreseeable future remain high-skill, high-pay knowledge jobs and low-pay, low-skill service jobs. We need to leverage and deepen the former, investing in the knowledge, technology and skill that drive innovation and economic growth. At the same time, we need to transform the more than 60 million low-wage service jobs into good family-supporting jobs like manufacturing jobs used to be.
As I have written previously we need an education system that prepares students for the economy they will live in, not the economy that their parents and grandparents experienced. Unfortunately increasingly education policy is moving towards the economy of the past.
Both David Brooks and Thomas Friedman wrote recent columns that illuminate what the economy of the future will be like and what skills matter most to do well in that economy. Both worth reading!
Friedman in a column entitled Need a job? Invent it writes:
This is dangerous at a time when there is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job — the thing that sustained the middle class in the last generation. Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job. Every middle-class job today is being pulled up, out or down faster than ever. That is, it either requires more skill or can be done by more people around the world or is being buried — made obsolete — faster than ever. … My generation had it easy. We got to “find” a job. But, more than ever, our kids will have to “invent” a job. (Fortunately, in today’s world, that’s easier and cheaper than ever before.) Sure, the lucky ones will find their first job, but, given the pace of change today, even they will have to reinvent, re-engineer and reimagine that job much more often than their parents if they want to advance in it.
In the column Friedman interviews Harvard’s Tony Wagner on the education that our kids will need to succeed in the economy he describes. Wagner says:
“Every young person will continue to need basic knowledge, of course,” he said. “But they will need skills and motivation even more. Of these three education goals, motivation is the most critical. Young people who are intrinsically motivated — curious, persistent, and willing to take risks — will learn new knowledge and skills continuously. They will be able to find new opportunities or create their own — a disposition that will be increasingly important as many traditional careers disappear.” … Reimagining schools for the 21st-century must be our highest priority. We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.” (Emphasis added.)
Brooks in a column entitled The practical university explores the skills students need most from higher education. He writes:
… universities are places where young people acquire two sorts of knowledge, what the philosopher Michael Oakeshott called technical knowledge and practical knowledge. Technical knowledge is the sort of knowledge you need to understand a task — the statistical knowledge you need to understand what market researchers do, the biological knowledge you need to grasp the basics of what nurses do. Technical knowledge is like the recipes in a cookbook. It is formulas telling you roughly what is to be done. It is reducible to rules and directions. It’s the sort of knowledge that can be captured in lectures and bullet points and memorized by rote. … Practical knowledge is not about what you do, but how you do it. It is the wisdom a great chef possesses that cannot be found in recipe books. Practical knowledge is not the sort of knowledge that can be taught and memorized; it can only be imparted and absorbed. It is not reducible to rules; it only exists in practice.
Brooks uses Sheryl Sanderg’s book Lean In to explore the practical knowledge one needs to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s economy. He writes:
Focus on the tasks she describes as being important for anybody who wants to rise in this economy: the ability to be assertive in a meeting; to disagree pleasantly; to know when to interrupt and when not to; to understand the flow of discussion and how to change people’s minds; to attract mentors; to understand situations; to discern what can change and what can’t. These skills are practical knowledge. Anybody who works in a modern office knows that they are surprisingly rare. But students can learn these skills at a university, through student activities, through the living examples of their professors and also in seminars.
Play, passion and purpose. The ability to be assertive in a meeting; to disagree pleasantly; to know when to interrupt and when not to; to understand the flow of discussion and how to change people’s minds; to attract mentors; to understand situations; to discern what can change and what can’t. Think about how aligned our education system is with these skills that may well matter most to doing well in a career of forty years or more. Think about how well you can learn these skills –– in what is increasingly becoming the preferred delivery system of policy makers and pundits for future education –– online or in a virtual school. And then be very worried that we are headed in the wrong direction.