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“From Cradle to Career” January 4, 2007

Posted by Tom in Education, Workforce.
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From Kevin Thompson at the US Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration.  I really like the linkages that this report promotes…

Education Week, the national trade publication, has released its report “From the Cradle to Career: Connecting American Education from Birth to Adulthood.” The authors note: “In many ways, this year’s Quality Counts is a transitional document, as we move from an exclusive focus on K-12 education to a broader focus on the connections between K-12 education and the other systems with which it intersects: early-childhood education, teacher preparation, postsecondary education and training, and workforce and economic development.” The chart at http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/2007/17ewi.h26.pdf contains some useful (provocative?) State comparisons on work readiness and education.



WIRED: Indiana plans unveiled December 20, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, WIRED, Workforce.
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The White County Economic Development director, Connie Neininger, and Purdue WIRED project director, Mark Smith, presented an overview of the Indiana WIRED program to the White County Commissioners:

[The WIRED project] has as its goals the support of local and regional entrepreneurship, preparing business for the aging population and mature workforce while equipping mature workers for jobs and building innovation and job growth in the industries of advanced manufacturing, advanced materials and agribusiness, food production and technology.

“We need to leverage all these assets; that’s what this grant is about,” said Smith. “It’s important to build networks; we’re trying to find the best ideas so everyone can use them.”

Neininger said asset mapping will be a focus of the group meetings in early 2007 so that through this sharing, White County, for example, might learn of a program in Tipton County that’s making it easier for entrepreneurs to get started. That idea then might translate to have the same impact here at home. Then, WIRED grant funds help make the project a reality.

But more research and information is needed so that White County can best use the funds it has available and part of that will come through public meetings over the next several months said Neininger.

WIRED: Indiana staff hire December 20, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Innovation, WIRED, Workforce.
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The Purdue University Technical Assistance Program hired Christy Bozic as its manager of business innovation.  Ms. Bozic will be funded by WIRED for the first three years of her position.

Dave McKinnis, TAP Director: “Christy will be responsible for helping manufacturers with product development, manufacturing processes, supply-chain development, strategy development, business management and other related issues. She also will work closely with economic development leaders, work force development organizations, governmental offices and university contacts to help companies create and implement their plans for innovative practices.”

Bozic: “The biggest mistake companies make is thinking that they have to move oversees to reduce cost.  There are new, innovative ways to use the incumbent work force. Retraining and keeping new graduates in-state are key.”

Additional summary of manufacturing-workforce issues December 19, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Workforce.
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From English as a Second Language to skills shortages to marketing to the next generation of potential workers, this monthly email newsletter from WorkforceUSA.net (which I believe is free) covers all the bases…some of which I’ve already discussed on the blog but others that I have not reviewed.  Articles, resource materials on these topics are available by the link.

Statistical comparison of major metro areas December 19, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Research, Workforce.
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Houston Strategies referred me to this well-done compilation by the St. Louis, Missouri-based East-West Gateway Council of Goverments, of data comparing St. Louis to different metro areas around the nation in terms of our many demographic points – education, age, race, income, etc.  – using the latest available data.

If you are interested in keeping up with the Jones (or at least benchmarking your community against them!), this looks like a good resource.

Initial media coverage of Skills Commission report December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Media, Workforce.
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The AP story is on the wire, and it’s rather comprehensive – as is the report:

The group is proposing that high school end at 10th grade for many students and that teacher pension plans be scrapped for other benefits such as higher pay and 401(k)s.

The proposals, which likely will be viewed as radical by some, were presented by a decidedly establishment group that includes two dozen ex-Cabinet secretaries, school officials and business executives, along with top government leaders from the major political parties.


Indiana: Investing in workplace literacy December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Workforce.
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The nasty little secret that we must address in America is that many of our workers – even some well-paid workers – do not possess basic workplace literacy skills. So says a study, “A Demand-Side Strategy to Meet Indiana’s Workforce Basic Skills Challenge” (Full Report, Executive Summary), that the Indiana Chamber of Commerce published in January 2005.

The study states that 50% of our adult workforce has low literacy skills, meaning that they have a hard time with these tasks:

Skills Needed to Get a Job

  • Read a want ad and complete a written application
  • Talk about skills, abilities, accomplishments, likes and dislikes
  • Answer and ask questions

Skills Needed to Survive on a Job

  • Follow oral and written directions, ask for clarification or reasoning, and make small talk
  • Locate written information, facts or specifications
  • Understand technical vocabulary and the enabling words attached to them; for example, “pour the pellets into the extruder”
  • Understand and use charts, diagrams and illustrations

Skills Needed to Thrive on a Job

  • Give as well as follow instructions
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Teach others
  • Predict outcomes
  • State a position
  • Express an opinion
  • Access and use information from diverse sources

Fortunately, The study did not go unnoticed.


New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce report released today December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Workforce.

The Commission’s 28-page PDF executive summary of their report, Tough Choices or Tough Times, is available here.  I gather that the report is being formally released to the public at 10AM today in Washington, DC.

I haven’t had a chance to read it all in depth, but my review indicates a couple things:

1. The Commission is suggesting that the United States transition itself to a largely creative economy.  That means:

  • Research
  • Development
  • Design
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Global Supply Chain Management

2. To get to this point, the United States needs to confront some tough realities about its education system:

The core problem is that our education and training systems were built for another era, an era in which most workers needed only a rudimentary education.  It is not possible to get where we have to go by patching that system.  There is not enough money at any level of our intergovernmental system to fix this problem by spending more on the system we have.  We can get where we must go only by changing the system itself.

Powerful material, indeed – and considering the supporting materials already circulated like the aforementioned Time Magazine cover story and today’s Thomas Friedman op-ed in the New York Times (subscription to TimesSelect required…sigh), it looks like this Commission has the ears of influential policy leaders.  The emphasis on the creative element – perhaps the “creative” moniker – is somewhat surprising to me, but it’s encouraging to see that leaders like those on the bipartisan Commission are looking in that direction for our country’s future.

WIRED: Colorado, North Carolina, Montana December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, WIRED, Workforce.
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A good day for WIRED news…

COLORADO: The Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation is starting the Colorado Energy Coalition to advance the Rocky Mountain State’s position in the emerging energy industry. And there’s a WIRED tie-in:

The CEC also wants to help ensure the state has a highly educated, well-trained work force for the energy sector. The coalition will work with the Metro Denver WIRED Initiative, a $15 million U.S. Department of Labor grant intended to increase the number of skilled workers for the region’s fastest-growing industries, such as energy.

Kevin Thompson from the US Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration forwarded me this complementary article from the Denver Post.

The Denver EDC offers this energy cluster overview, which is worth a read if you want to learn more about how Denver is selling itself to the energy sector.  Lots of skilled workforce data in there.

NORTH CAROLINA: Representatives of Piedmont Triad, the managing partner in the Tar Heel State’s 12-county WIRED initiative, will be attending the 19th Annual Performance Racing Industry trade show in Orlando this weekend. The article discusses motorsports’ importance to North Carolina and the fact that Piedmont Triad is leading WIRED, but no other direct ties are made. Will North Carolina be investing WIRED money in the motorsports industry?

MONTANA: The Montana State Univesity-Billings College of Technology received $1.99 million from the Federal government’s Community-Based Job Training Grant program for the creation of an Energy Workforce Training and Development Center. In part, the grant will “support the educational needs of the State of Montana WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) initiative to advance the development of biofuels, natural and renewable resources.”

Video: Former MIT President on the future of engineering education December 13, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Innovation, Technology, Workforce.
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When Charles H. Vest, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talks about “Educating Engineers for 2020 and Beyond” (link to a 72-minute Real.com video), we who care about engineering as a means to economic growth should pay close attention. As a teaser, here’s a clip of the MIT World summary:

Vest perceives two key frontiers of engineering: the intersection of physical, life and information sciences — so-called bio, nano, info– “which offers stunning, unexplored possibilities;” and the macro world of energy, food, manufacturing, communications, which presents “daunting challenges of the future.”

The kind of students Vest hopes will explore these new frontiers should reflect a diverse society, write and communicate well, think about ethics and social responsibility, conceive and operate systems of great complexity within a framework of sustainable development and be prepared to live and work as global citizens. It’s a “tall order,” admits Vest, but “there are men and women every day here who seem to be able to do all these things and more.”

To prepare this new generation, engineering schools should focus on creating an environment that provides inspiration. In the long run, offering “exciting, creative adventures, rigorous, demanding and empowering milieus is more important than specifying details of the curriculum,” says Vest. Students are “driven by passion, curiosity, engagement and dreams.” Give them opportunities to discover and do – to participate in research teams, perform challenging work in industry, gain professional experience in other countries. Vest says, “We must ensure the best and brightest become engineers of 2020 and beyond. We can’t afford to fail.” [Emphasis added]